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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 19:41 GMT
Chechen rebel: War will last years
soldiers
Rebels say Russia will have to withdraw from Chechnya
By Jonathan Charles on the Chechen border

A Chechen rebel commander has told the BBC that the war in Chechnya will last many more months and probably years.

Battle for the Caucasus
He said the rebels now intended to launch a series of ambushes and guerrilla raids on Russian units.

The aim would be to force Russian troops to withdraw from the republic.

The information came as the BBC broadcast an interview with Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, who said his troops had broken rebel resistance.

Fight on

Even though the rebels are supposedly losing their last remaining strongholds in the southern mountains, they intend to fight on.

The Chechen commander, who asked not to be named, said the rebels would now change their tactics.

soldier
Russia controls most of the republic's territory
He said they would no longer try to hold onto towns and villages where the Russians could fire artillery shells at civilians.

Instead, they will carry out hit and run raids, he said.

The commander admitted that his forces had suffered some losses in recent weeks but he maintained that more than 7,000 fighters were ready for action.

The aim of the guerrilla campaign is to demoralise the Russian troops, giving them the impression that the rebels could strike any time in any location.

The rebels seem convinced that the switch in strategy will pay off, believing that eventually Russia will have no alternative but to withdraw its troops from Chechnya.

Despite the Chechens' confidence, Russia still controls most of the republic and dislodging its forces will be a huge task.

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05 Mar 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Putin wants respect
22 Feb 00 |  Europe
Cook woos Russian leader
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Vladimir Putin joins the race
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