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Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 13:26 GMT
Eyewitness: Eerie calm in Argun

Two Russian soldiers Russian soldiers are now in control in Argun


Andrew Harding reports from Argun

Russian troops in Chechnya are coming under increasing pressure from insurgents, despite their earlier apparent successes in taking control of a number of Chechen towns.

One of those towns is Argun, which came under attack from Chechen rebels at the weekend.

Today, Argun is eerily quiet, except for the occasional distant blast of artillery fire.

Heavily-armed Russian troops patrol the streets in small groups. Most buildings appear to be more or less intact, but the fighting of the last few days here has taken a heavy toll.

Cold and dark

At the local hospital, we saw five wounded civilians. There is no electricity in town. The rooms are cold and dark.


Man with kettle Many civilians in Chechnya have lost almost everything

One woman - eyes filled with tears - said she had lost her left leg and her unborn child when her house was shelled.

The doctor said there was almost no medicine and that his surgeons had been operating without anaesthetics.

The Russian military insists they are bringing order back to Argun and to other towns like it.

Reinforcements have been brought in to prevent a repeat of last weekend's raids by Chechen rebels, who seized the town during a surprise counter-offensive.

A young Chechen man sat in the back of a Russian army truck. He had been seized at a checkpoint and accused of being a rebel. He denied it.

The Russians insist they have the strength and the determination to crush all Chechen resistance, but many civilians in Argun said they feared a partisan war would continue for years.

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