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Paul Wood reports for BBC News
"The Russian military seems to be pushing everything forward"
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The BBC's Paul Wood
''There's expectation that Grozny will be stormed after the elections''
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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 04:50 GMT
Russia tells Chechnya to surrender

Bombs being loaded Bombs are loaded on to Russian planes at Mozdok base

Russia has told the Chechen government that the rebel republic has no option but to surrender.

Battle for the Caucasus
The blunt warning came during direct talks between the two sides as Russian war planes continued to bombard the Chechen capital Grozny.

Russia's army chief of staff General Anatoly Kvashnin said the negotiations had involved top members of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's government.

Either they fully accept what the Russian president said or they don't - nothing else is a subject for talks
Russian Chief of Staff Gen Kvashnin
He said the Russian generals who attended talks made it clear that Moscow would only accept the unconditional surrender of the breakaway republic.

"There have been contacts with representatives of [Maskhadov's] cabinet, two vice-premiers and a few ministers," Gen Kvashnin said after returning to the Moscow region early on Sunday from the northern Caucasus.

"We were blunt - either they fully accept what the Russian president said in his statement or they don't. Nothing else is a subject for talks," he said, ruling out any negotiations on a ceasefire.

Gen Kvashnin Gen Kvashnin sees no room for negotiations
On Saturday Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the Chechen offensive was "developing at the pace and in the way that had been planned".

"We do not plan to change anything," he added.

Russia has shown no signs of being influenced by repeated Western calls for an immediate ceasefire in Chechnya.

Moscow insists that Chechnya hand over separatist rebel fighters whom it blames for incursions into Dagestan and bomb attacks in Russian cities.

Click here to see a map of Grozny and surrounding areas

Itar-Tass news agency reported fresh fighting around Grozny's Severny airport and in north-west districts of the city on Sunday but gave no further details.

Two soldiers Russian soldiers heading for Grozny
On Saturday Russian military sources said they had virtually taken control of the city's southern Chernorechiye district.

They have already captured Khankala airbase to the east of the city and the north-west suburb of Staropromyslovskaya.

But the Russians continue to deny plans for an all out assault on Grozny.

Russian planes carried out 60 bombing missions between Saturday and Sunday morning, targeting Grozny, and Vedeno, Shali and the Argun gorge in the south.

They said they destroyed a guerrilla base, four anti-aircraft guns, an armoured column and other infrastructure.

Mountain stronghold

South of Grozny, Russia has claimed a turning point in the Chechen war after its paratroopers seized a key road on the Chechen-Georgia border on Friday.

The Chechens have acknowledged the Russians now hold the route.

However, Moscow does not control the entire 80km (50 mile) long frontier, a key supply route for the rebels who are able to use remote mountain paths.

Many Chechen fighters have retreated south into the mountain region and the area is being subjected to a relentless Russian artillery and aerial barrage.


On Sunday Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu visited tent camps housing refugees in Russian-occupied parts of Chechnya and dismissed talk of a regional "humanitarian catastrophe".

Sergei Shoigu Sergei Shoigu dismissed talk of a "catastrophe"
He said many of the 300,000 refugees who fled to nearby regions were starting to return to their homes in Russian-controlled areas of Chechnya.

He added that more aid was arriving from as far afield as Italy and Iran.

Mr Shoigu said 89 residents of an old people's home in Grozny had been brought safely to Mozdok in northern Ossetia.

But he admitted: "Unfortunately, a further 12 old people have died there in the last few days from cold and hunger."

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See also:
19 Dec 99 |  Europe
Eyewitness: Undercover in Chechnya
18 Dec 99 |  Europe
Russians 'closing in' on Grozny
18 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The pride of the bear
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Chechnya: A conflict in pictures
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Russia maintains grip on Grozny
17 Dec 99 |  Europe
Getting into Chechnya
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Unanswered questions of Grozny battle
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Georgia facing 'humanitarian crisis'
16 Dec 99 |  Europe
Chechnya's voter appeal

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