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BBC's Andrew Harding reports
"A vicious game of cat and mouse and one the Chechens are proving rather good at"
 real 28k

The BBC's William Horsley in Moscow
"Tactics would be changed to stop such mistakes happening again"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 07:34 GMT
Russian forces 'have made mistakes'

Russian soldiers Russia says its assault will begin again with full force


A top Russian commander in Chechnya has admitted there have been mistakes in the military campaign, as fierce fighting continues in the region following counter-attacks by rebel forces.

Battle for the Caucasus
The commander for the North Caucasus, General Viktor Kazantsev, told Russian public television that lessons had now been learned, and Chechnya would soon be entirely under Russian control.

"Correct conclusions have been drawn, and I believe that no such mistakes will be repeated in future," he said, adding that the war would be won within two months.

But the BBC's Moscow correspondent, William Horsley, said that public confidence in the campaign was ebbing fast.

Supply corridor

The Russians have said they are renewing their assault on the Chechen capital, Grozny, and are dislodging rebels who retook parts of the towns of Shali and Argun nearby.

Russian reports also speak of fighting on the outskirts of Gudermes further east, which the rebels claim they control.

To the south-west, a force of 500 Chechen fighters is reported to have driven a new supply corridor from their mountain strongholds towards the capital. The rebels say they have enough ammunition to hold their positions until spring.

Casualties

The federal air force said it had carried out over 70 aircraft and helicopter sorties against the rebel positions in Chechnya between Monday and Tuesday morning.


Chechen civilians find refuge in train cars

General Kazantsev said 16 Russians had been killed and 25 wounded in fighting in Argun and Shali in the past 24 hours.

He claimed up to 150 Chechen fighters had been killed in Shali and up to 100 others wounded, while Russian forces had now "completely cut off" Argun.

"The rest are now making attempts to break the encirclement and get out of Shali and make their way towards the mountains," he said.

Click here for a map of the region

Earlier, Russian commanders admitted they lost 26 men in the rebel counter-attacks against Argun and Shali - the highest casualty figures they have given in the campaign so far.

The attacks came during a three-day lull in Russian operations, which coincided with the Orthodox Christmas and the end of the Muslim Eid festival.

Observers say the Chechen counter-offensive has dealt a stunning blow to the Russian forces, and that the rebels appear to hold the initiative.

The BBC's William Horsley says the rebels are showing that they can run rings around the Russian troops.

Partisan warfare

Rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov said the weekend attacks heralded a change of strategy for the Chechens, who would now focus on partisan warfare and avoid frontal clashes with Russian troops enjoying overwhelming firepower.

"We will strike without respite at their outposts throughout Chechnya, one by one, leaving them no time to come to their senses," he told Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.




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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Russia media criticise Chechen campaign
10 Jan 00 |  Europe
Is Russia coming unstuck again?
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
25 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia's fighting tactics
09 Jan 00 |  Europe
Chechen rebels hit back
07 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russians hold their fire
07 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees return to Chechnya
06 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russian army battered in Grozny

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