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Bridget Kendall reports from Moscow
"The Chechens say General Malofeyev has been taken to a safe place to be questioned"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rob Parsons in North Caucasus
"Grozny is becoming a smouldering ruin"
 real 28k

Andrew Harding reports from Moscow
"The battle for Grozny is raging more fiercely than ever"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 17:50 GMT
Russian general missing in Chechnya

Fate of General Malofeyev (centre) is not known

Russia's Defence Ministry has confirmed that one of its senior military commanders has gone missing in Chechnya.

Battle for the Caucasus
The ministry gave no further information, but reports from the capital, Grozny, said Major-General Mikhail Malofeyev was captured on Tuesday while taking part in the storming of the city.

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass later quoted witnesses as telling federal commanders that the Russian general had been killed by sniper fire in Grozny.

A prominent Chechen spokesman in the south of the breakaway republic told the BBC that General Malofeyev had been taken to a safe place outside the city to be questioned.

The spokesman, Movladi Udugov, confirmed intense fighting was continuing in Grozny with heavy loss of life.

soldier Russians help an injured soldier into a helicopter

Frenzied street fighting has been reported across the Chechen capital as Russian troops try to push deeper into the city.

According to one report, the Russians have admitted to losing 23 men in the past day alone.

The Chechens say 45 of their own fighters have been killed so far this week.

Both sides are widely suspected of under-reporting their own casualty figures.

Click here for a map of Grozny

The Russian airforce has continued to intensify its aerial bombardment of the city, with 200 sorties reported in the past 24 hours.

A Chechen spokesman admitted there had been Russian advances, but said the ground they had taken was often no more than 500 metres and in some places Chechen fighters had managed to take back territory.

Conflicting claims

Itar-Tass reported that federal forces claimed to be in full control of Minutka Square, a key route into the heart of Grozny, and a strategic bridge over the Sunzha River.

refugees Chechen refugees carry soup back to their tent

But in north-western Grozny, Russian soldiers were reported to be pinned down by heavy Chechen sniper fire from nine-storey buildings in the district.

Russian tanks fired salvo after salvo on the buildings, shrouding the entire area in smoke, while Russian helicopter gunships overhead fired missiles at the Chechen positions.

Thousands of civilians remain in the city with little heat, food and water and no medical care - and are too scared to leave.

Southern battle

The Russians have kept up their bombardment of rebel strongholds near the strategic Argun Gorge, about 50km (30 miles) south of Grozny. Military sources said warplanes flew 200 missions on Wednesday.

The BBC's Paul Anderson, reporting from Russian military headquarters in Mozdok, said progress in the mountainous south appeared to be swifter.

The Russians said they had captured the heights overlooking key rebel positions, controlling 60% of the area, he said.


International concern for the plight of Chechnya's civilians is growing.

Lord Russel-Johnston, the president of the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body, returned to Moscow from a fact-finding mission in the war zone.

He said that Russia's suspension now looked "more likely than before we arrived".

The council is planning to debate the war on 27 January.

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See also:
20 Jan 00 |  Europe
Grozny rebels put up stiff resistance
20 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Russian press views Grozny endgame
18 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Russians learn from past mistakes
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Chechen rebels hold out
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: West quiet over Chechnya

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