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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 15:42 GMT
After Grozny, war not over
Russian troops in Chechnya: More will be needed to garrison Grozny
Russian troops in Chechnya: More will be needed to garrison Grozny
By Defence Correspondent, Jonathan Marcus

Given the claim and counter-claim, it is impossible to say how far the Chechen forces have given up their positions in the city.

But western military analysts have always insisted that eventually Grozny would be captured by the Russian army.

Whatever the deficiencies of the Russian armed forces, their numerical superiority and overwhelming firepower would eventually tell.

The Chechens have nonetheless been forcing the Russians to pay a heavy price to enter Grozny.

But their commanders may now have decided that blunting the Russian assault has to be balanced against their own need to retain some level of operational capability.

Chechens cannot re-take Grozny

The Chechens' first task is to extract as many of their fighters from Grozny as possible, then to reorganize and regroup.

Mr Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin has taken a hard line on Chechnya
It is likely that they will go to ground in caves and hideouts in the heavily-wooded mountains in the southern part of Chechnya.

This represents almost as difficult terrain for a modern mechanised army as the urban canyons of Grozny itself.

Western experts rule out any spectacular retaking of the city by the Chechens.

But they believe that Chechen fighters could seek to mount significant raids against Russian positions.

It is going to take a very large number of troops to garrison Chechnya and to control the main population centres and principal routes.

Russia will also have to try to seal the relatively short but mountainous border with Georgia in an effort to cut Chechen arms and food supply routes.

One phase in the Russian President Vladimir Putin's war may be coming to an end, but the conflict is by no means over.

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13 Jan 00 | Europe
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