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The BBC's Andrew Harding in Chechnya:
"Victory at last - Russian troops pour into the centre of Grozny."
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Biles
"Employees and family voiced fears for his safety"
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 17:57 GMT
Chechen rebels 'set up mountain base'

Russian soldiers Russian soldiers: Looking south for the next front


The Russian army says Chechen rebels are establishing a new base high in the mountains of southern Chechnya after fleeing the capital Grozny.

An army spokesman told the Russian news agency Interfax that rebels were moving ammunition, food and medicines to the mountain village of Shatoi.
Battle for the Caucasus


The BBC's Paul Wood, reporting from the Chechen border, says if the reports are true, they confirm that the conflict is moving into a new phase of guerrilla war waged from the high ground.

Earlier both sides reported fierce fighting in the mountains in the Argun Gorge area.

Vodka in Grozny

It appears that the Russian Army is now moving through the Chechen capital without meeting any serious resistance, with reports of Russian soldiers drinking vodka in the streets to celebrate their conquest.


We think an irreversible breakthrough has occurred
Igor Sergeyev
Russian Defence Minister


Correspondents say Grozny has all but fallen, but artillery fire on the city has continued, indicating that not all areas are yet safe for Russian forces.

Rebel commanders have defiantly promised to return, telling the Russians that, just as in the last Chechen conflict, Grozny will be their graveyard.

Click here to see the location of the latest fighting

During the first Chechen war, in 1994-1996, Chechen soldiers also used the southern mountains as a base after being forced from Grozny.

From there, they launched the successful assault to re-take the capital and force Russian troops out of the republic.

Correspondents say the Russians have learned the lessons of the previous campaign, but must still not underestimate the Chechens if they are to eventually win this war.

Strategic target

Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev confirmed that Argun Gorge would be the next strategic target for federal troops.

"We think an irreversible breakthrough has now occurred," he said.

"We will concentrate our forces on the main targets, that is the Argun Gorge and Grozny.

"I think we can expect the operations to be finished in Grozny first, and then I think all operations in the Argun Gorge."

Soldier Russia troops sense victory


Divisions of Russia's best trained troops are expected to spearhead the campaign in the southern mountains.

Fierce battle

The battle for Grozny had raged for more than a month.

The Chechens, who fiercely defended the city as the Russians advanced, say their retreat from Grozny was a tactical withdrawal rather than defeat.

They say fighters sneaked out of the city under cover of darkness and made their way along pre-planned routes to rendezvous points.

As Russian forces consolidate their grip on the city, civilians are finally emerging from the cellars to try to put their lives back together.

But the BBC's Paul Wood says there is no sign yet of the genuine peace which would allow other refugess to return with any confidence.





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See also:
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Journalist exchanged for Russian soldiers
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Can anyone claim victory?
24 Oct 99 |  Europe
The first bloody battle for Grozny
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Conflict not over yet
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Turkey succours wounded Chechens
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
US warns Russia over Chechnya
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees battle Caucasus winter
30 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The shifting sands of war

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