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Richard Lister in Moscow
Mrs Albright says without a political settlement, the Chechen conflict could rumble on
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Peter Biles reports for BBC News
"Russia will remain isolated in the international community"
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The BBC's Paul Wood in Inugshetia
"Russian TV says federal forces are now in control of Minutka Square"
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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 18:03 GMT
US warns Russia over Chechnya

A Russian soldier aims a cannon at targets in Grozny A Russian soldier takes aim on Grozny

The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has called on Russia to seek a political solution to the war in Chechnya or risk further international isolation.

Battle for the Caucasus
Mrs Albright has been meeting her Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, at the start of three days of talks in Moscow.

Later, she described Russia's military campaign in the breakaway republic as "an incredible act of misery".

I think it is hardly fair to talk about isolation and in any case, if there is any isolation, it is temporary
Igor Ivanov, Russian foreign minister
"In order to deal with what is clearly a problem of terrorism, there has been excessive force used and civilians have been, I think, indiscriminately targeted in a way that has broadened and widened the problem," she said.


But Mr Ivanov said no-one had come up with an effective way of dealing with terrorism other than the use of force.

He said it was unfair to talk about isolation and said if, indeed, Russia was being isolated, it would only be temporary.

Soldiers' tea break Russian soldiers take a tea break
"We understand very well the worries abroad about the scale of the operations, so we are open to contacts," Mr Ivanov said.

Mrs Albright is the latest in a string of foreign dignitaries who have called for an end to Russia's war in Chechnya.

She is the most senior American official to visit Russia since Vladimir Putin became acting president at the end of December.

Asked if a visit by the US President Bill Clinton to Moscow could be expected, Mrs Albright said it was important to carry on a dialogue at all levels and Mr Clinton would be prepared to meet Mr Putin.

Battle for Grozny

We will fight to the very end to destroy the rebels, whether it takes a day, two days, a month or a year
Russian General Gennady Troshev
As Mrs Albright and Mr Ivanov spoke, the Russian offensive was continuing, with more conflicting reports about the extent to which Russian forces are advancing on the Chechen capital Grozny.

Reports from Chechnya say rebel snipers are continuing to frustrate Russian attempts to seize the strategic Minutka Square.

Russian television, however, says that federal forces have finally succeeded in taking the square - 12 days after launching an assualt on it.

The square, which offers access to central districts, was the scene of fierce battles in the 1994-96 Chechen war, which ended with a humiliating Russian retreat from the region.

Click here for a map of Grozny

Federal troops have been trying to take control of the square for more than a week.

Heavy fighting was also reported in the Leninsky and Oktyabrsky districts in the north and south of the city.

General Gennady Troshev, a top commander in the region, told Russia's NTV that most fighters were concentrated in areas between the central plains and southern mountains.

"Tough battles lie ahead," he said. "We will fight to the very end to destroy the rebels, whether it takes a day, two days, a month or a year."

There have also been reports that a Russian colonel has been killed in the Argunskoye gorge region.

Colonel Maydanov was apparently in a helicopter brought down by Chechen fire.

The US secretary of state's discussions in Moscow will also expected to focus on nuclear arms control.

She is expected to push hard for Moscow to ratify the Start-II treaty, which commits both sides to further reducing their nuclear stockpile to about 3,500 warheads each.

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See also:
30 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russians losing faith in Chechen war
30 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The shifting sands of war
29 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russia claims Grozny gains
28 Jan 00 |  Europe
Chechen warlord threatens Russia
29 Jan 00 |  Europe
Putin defends Chechen campaign
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees battle Caucasus winter
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia's unconvincing arguments
26 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Russian troops' tales of war

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