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The BBC's Joanne Shoebridge
"Both sides trade abuse as well as bullets"
 real 28k

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

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

Friday, 21 January, 2000, 05:06 GMT
Frenzied fighting in Grozny

Chechen women flee across the border to Ingushetia

The battle for the Chechen capital, Grozny, has been raging more furiously than ever, with frenzied street fighting reported as Russian troops try to push further in.

Battle for the Caucasus
Interfax news agency quoted Russian military sources as saying 23 soldiers had been killed and 53 injured in the city since Wednesday - far more than the eight dead admitted in official figures.

Many Russian dead fell to Chechen snipers who are reported to have pinned down Russian troops trying to advance through the shattered streets.

General 'captured'

The Chechens say they are interrogating a captured Russian General, Mikhail Malofeyev, whom Russian military sources confirmed was missing after being caught in an ambush and hit by sniper fire.

General Malofeyev (right): Whereabouts are unknown

refugees Chechen refugees carry soup back to their tent
Mr Putin meets German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Friday to "discuss possible solutions" to the conflict, according to diplomatic sources in Berlin.

Mr Fischer, who leads Germany's Greens, has been a vocal critic of what he once called Russia's "colonial war" in Chechnya, but the diplomatic sources said he is not in Moscow to pressurise Russia with threats of sanctions.

The Russian leader met Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini on Thursday and is to meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright next week.

A fact-finding delegation from the Council of Europe returned from the region reporting that Russian suspension from the council looked "more likely".

Howerver, Russian officials took heart from the delegation's assertion that suspension was not, however, on the immediate agenda.

Popular Russian support for Mr Putin's prosecution of the war remains high, with 62% believing military action to be a success, according to the latest poll.

But officials will be concerned that the previously supportive Russian media have begun to echo Western criticism of the campaign.

soldier Russians help an injured soldier into a helicopter
Egypt joined the international criticsm calling Russian actions "a disgrace" and urging the world to protect civilians in the region.

Foreign minister Amr Moussa discussed Chechnya with UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who said London and Cairo shared a "common motive to make clear to Russia the depth of international alarm and anxiety".

Rape reports

Rapes and murders of Chechen women by Russian soldiers have been reported in areas controlled by Russian forces, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The reports come from Shali and the village of Alkhan-Yurt - where Russian troops committed summary executions, lootings and other serious abuses in December, the HRW report said.

The women had spoken out "despite strong taboo in Chechen culture against revealing instances of sexual assault," the report said.

"Rape is a war crime and these allegations about rape in Chechnya are very serious," the group's female rights spokesperson Regan Ralph said.

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

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