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The BBC's Ben Brown reports
"For centuries the Chechens have been ferocious warriors"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Rogers reports
"The Russians still face a protracted campaign against a highly-motivated and determined enemy"
 real 28k

BBC's Peter Biles reporting
"There are conflicting reports about the scale of the fighting"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 17:18 GMT
Chechens 'break Grozny siege'

Russians soldiers take shelter outside Grozny

Russian federal forces are facing continuing counter-attacks from rebel fighters in their campaign in Chechnya.

Battle for the Caucasus
A senior Russian general has admitted that mistakes by their forces have allowed Chechen fighters to go on the counter-offensive.

And military sources are quoted as saying that bad weather has hampered air and artillery raids.

Chechen sources say they have broken the Russian siege of Grozny, and inflicted heavy casualties on federal forces.

As the Russian military campaign appeared to be running into difficulties, the acting President, Vladimir Putin, said he wanted to rebuild Russia's military might and economic strength in order to recover its power in the world.

Both sides claiming successes

Russian military officials say they have retaken the town of Shali, scene of fierce fighting since a counter-offensive by Chechen rebels on Sunday. This claim cannot be independently verified.

Our aim is not to take settlements but to strike as heavy a blow as possible and then pull out
Chechen spokesman

Other reports speak of federal forces still surrounded by their enemy in the town's administrative buildings.

One report says federal soldiers are pinned down in the building by Chechen snipers.

"Our aim is not to take settlements but to strike as heavy a blow as possible and then pull out," said Selim Abdulmuslimov, a spokesman for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, on Monday.

Another force of 500 Chechen fighters is reported to have driven a new supply corridor from their mountain strongholds to the south-west of Grozny.

The rebels say they have enough ammunition to hold their positions until spring.

Russia resumes shelling

Military sources say that despite bad weather, war planes and attack helicopters have continued to strike at rebel positions in Shali, Gudermes and Argun.

Russian officials have admitted substantial casualties

The Russian military said jets and helicopters flew 70 missions in the 24 hours up to Tuesday morning.

Some 20 rebel strongholds, two command posts, four anti-aircraft systems, one mobile communication system, two armoured vehicles and three trucks were destroyed in the air attacks, a military spokesman said.

Gudermes, Argun and Shali are areas that have previously been held by Russian forces. That they are being attacked from the air suggests successful rebel offensives.

Russian 'mistakes'

The commander for the North Caucasus, General Viktor Kazantsev, said mistakes by "soft-hearted" Russian interior ministry officials had allowed rebels to counter-attack Argun and Shali.

He said lapses had allowed the rebels to get behind Russian lines and destroy an interior ministry column near Dzhalka, on the Argun-Gudermes road.

Interior ministry troops had apparently not properly searched homes for hiding rebels.

Click here for a map of the region

"It was our soft-heartedness, but often our trust has been misplaced," General Kazantsev added.

He said from now on only boys under 10, old men over 60 and girls and women would be considered as refugees.

All other men would be subject to strict identity checks and could be detained if necessary.

"In the future no such mistakes will be made. In accordance with the situation, tactics will be changed as appropriate," General Kazantsev added.

Public confidence starts to ebb away

Reports suggest Mr Putin's popularity could suffer as recent set-backs stir memories of the last Chechen war, and public confidence in the campaign ebbs away.

One Russian newspaper, Nezavisimya, commented on Tuesday: "For the first time this new war recalls the events of 1994-96."

The BBC's correspondent in Moscow, James Rogers, says there are echoes of Russia's last campaign when Kremlin's forces would take towns only to withdraw again in the face of a counter-attack.

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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Europe
Putin: Russia must be great again
11 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Media swings against military
11 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia's tough military lesson
11 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Russian TV cooler on Chechnya
10 Jan 00 |  Europe
Can Russia win the Chechen war?
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
09 Jan 00 |  Europe
Chechen rebels hit back
07 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees return to Chechnya

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