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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"There is compelling evidence from eyewitnesses"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 February, 2000, 00:36 GMT
Putin: 'Grozny liberated'

cry The atrocities of war are too much for Chechnyan civilians

Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Sunday the military operation in Grozny had come to an end.

Battle for the Caucasus
A Russian flag has been hoisted on top of an administrative building, he said.

He said on Russian public television: "The General Staff has just reported that the last stronghold where terrorists were offering resistance - Grozny's Zavodskoy district - was seized some time ago and that the Russian flag was hoisted on one of the administrative buildings.

"Thus, we can say that the operation to liberate Grozny is over."

Summary executions

Earlier Chechen civilians said Russian soldiers have been carrying out summary executions and going on rampaging looting sprees during the operation to take the Chechen capital Grozny.

putin Putin: "Grozny liberated"

The Human Rights Watch organisation says it has been given the names of 36 people killed in the Staropromyslovsky district of the Chechen capital.

The group says it has witness statements and even survivor accounts to substantiate the allegations.

Locals had hoped the besieged city would become calm after the Russian operation to take Grozny.

But Chechen civilians say instead, there was fresh terror, as groups of soldiers ran amok, looting and carrying out summary executions.

Battles to the south

And dozens of civilians are reported to have been killed in Chechnya as Russian troops pursue rebels into countryside southwest of the capital, Grozny.

Military sources and displaced people say 50 separatist fighters and many civilians have been killed.

Interfax news agency in Moscow reported on Sunday that 100 rebels were killed after trying to break out of Zakan-Yurt, 18km (12 miles) west of Grozny.

Click here to see a map of the latest fighting

In the mountains in the south, rebels tried to unblock a mountain path near Salikinzhili, which links Chechnya and Georgia. A total of 30 were killed and seven taken prisoner by Russian forces, according to Interfax.

They just shot her in the head. She didn't even have time to say let me go - they just shot her ...
Grozny resident

Fierce air and artillery attacks hit Katyr-Yurt and other villages on Saturday, Chechen field commander Akhmed Basnukayev said.

"Those who could, fled straight away," said one refugee, adding that there were at least 200 civilians left behind in her village.

"We don't know what's going on there now," she said. "There will definitely be casualties. I only hope the Russians let the people out."

Harbouring rebels

The Russians suspect the villages are harbouring some of the 3,000 rebels who have broken through the blockade of the capital since Monday.

Refugees from the villages said most rebels had already broken through Russian lines and fled, and that only injured fighters remained.

In a setback for federal forces, Chechen rebel fighters made a surprise attack on Katyr-Yurt, forcing a detachment of Russian interior ministry troops to withdraw.

russian soldier A Russian soldier with ammunition

The Russians say they pulled out after being heavily outnumbered by about 1,000 rebels and after three of the interior ministry troops were killed.

Many horror stories were emerging from the wrecked capital.


One woman who is now recovering in hospital told how she was hiding in a cellar there with five other people, who were all shot at point-blank range after Russian soldiers began looting. She survived by playing dead.

Another woman was arrested with two of her neighbours when they saw troops carrying stolen goods to an armoured vehicle:

"My neighbour and I were clutching each other's hands," she said. The third woman said 'take whatever you want, we have children, just don't kill us.' They made us go into one little room.

"They just shot her in the head. She didn't even have time to say let me go - they just shot her ..."

Meanwhile there is growing concern over the fate of a Russian reporter who The Russian army handed over to Chechen rebels in exchange for two Russian soldiers.

Andrei Babitsky, an employee of the American-funded Radio Liberty, has not been heard of since the handover on 3 February.

He had been detained by the Russians for more than two weeks for allegedly working in Chechnya without accreditation.

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned Moscow for putting pressure on journalists who do not reflect its propaganda.

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See also:
05 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russians pursue Chechen rebels
06 Feb 00 |  Europe
Putin on target for presidency
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russia to cut Chechnya force
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechen rebels 'set up mountain base'
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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