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Ben Brown in Chechnya
"The war goes on whether the rest of the world likes it or not"
 real 28k

Friday, 28 January, 2000, 14:54 GMT
Chechen warlord threatens Russia
Kofi Annan
Peace mission: Kofi Annan at a Moscow wreath-laying service
One of Chechnya's most feared warlords has threatened to take the battle for independence into other Russian regions.

Interviewed on Russian television, the guerrilla leader Khattab said the rebels were ready to wage guerrilla warfare outside Chechnya.

We are ready not only to hit any city in Chechnya, but any city in Russia as well

On Russian TV
The warning came as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was in Moscow trying to find a way to end the conflict and secure humanitarian aid to refugees.

Khattab told the NTV station: "We are ready not only to hit any city in Chechnya, but any city in Russia as well."

"We plan to seize some towns that Russia has declared cleansed and we have begun this programme."
Battle for the Caucasus

Moscow reacted instantly to Khattab's threat, with a statement from the internal Federal Security Service (FSB) saying security in Russia would be stepped up.

FSB spokesman Alexander Zdanovich, also speaking on NTV, said: "The threat of an attack is real because the rebels and terrorists in Chechnya are in a critical state.

"They may resort to brutality in an effort to interrupt our campaign."

Moscow's battle for Chechnya began after a series of bomb explosions in Russia, which the government blamed on Chechen independence fighters.

The Russian Interfax news agency has this week reported limited rebel attacks on a Russian military base in Dagestan - a republic neighbouring Chechnya.

Grozny battle rages

Russian troops are meanwhile continuing their campaign to take control of the Chechen capital, Grozny.

wounded soldier
A wounded soldier is airlifted to hospital
Lieutenant General Gennady Troshev said that federal forces were within 250 yards of the city's main square.

But the statement could not be independently verified, and fierce resistance by Chechen rebels is known to have slowed the Russian advance to a crawl.

The Russian military command said heavy snowfalls were limiting the number of air attacks on Grozny, but pressure from the air was being kept up on the other main front - the rebel supply corridors of the southern mountains and the Argun and Vedeno gorges.

A total of 755 servicemen have been killed and 2,095 wounded in the operation in Chechnya, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.

Civilian protection

In Moscow, Mr Annan said he sympathised with the battle against the separatists, but told Moscow the fight must not be at the cost of civilian lives.

The UN secretary-general has been meeting acting Russian President Vladimir Putin, pressing the case for an end to the campaign.

The real causes of what is happening in the Chechen Republic are still not fully understood in the West

Sergey Yastrzhembsky
Russian spokesman
After the meeting Mr Annan said: "We are all against terrorists, and terrorists should be rooted out.

"However the force we use against them must be proportional and be focused on the terrorists we are trying to get rid of.

"We should be very careful to avoid situations where violence is visited on innocent civilians, because such situations often risk violating international humanitarian law."

Mr Putin told the secretary-general that Russia would try to guarantee favourable conditions for humanitarian work in the north Caucasus.

US criticism rebuffed

But correspondents say there is little chance that Mr Annan will be able to stop the conflict.

The Russian government's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergey Yastrzhembsky, has rejected President Clinton's latest criticism of the war as "cruel and self-defeating".

"The real causes of what is happening in the Chechen Republic are still not fully understood in the West," he said.

"(The West) tries to look at events in Chechnya through the prism of its own fixed idea of how the struggle against terrorism should be waged."

In another development, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeyev as saying that Moscow did not recognise the authority of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov.

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See also:

27 Jan 00 | Europe
Refugees battle Caucasus winter
26 Jan 00 | Media reports
Russian troops' tales of war
26 Jan 00 | Europe
Russia admits heavy casualties
27 Jan 00 | Europe
Chechen refugees promised help
18 Jan 00 | Europe
Challenge of urban warfare
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