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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 22:16 GMT 23:16 UK
Chechen rebel vows to fight on
Shamil Basayev
Mr Basayev's whereabouts were not disclosed
A top Chechen guerrilla commander has said that resistance to Russian rule in the shattered Caucasus republic is growing.

In a videotaped interview filmed at a secret location, Shamil Basayev said that between 30 and 40 Russian soldiers were dying in Chechnya every day - and that he was recruiting more fighters.

He said his forces were receiving support from Muslims all over the world - and he criticised the West for indirectly sponsoring Moscow's Chechnya campaign, through its purchase of Russian oil.


We won't stop fighting before we free the whole Caucasus

Shamil Basayev, Chechen guerilla leader
Mr Basayev is believed to be one of those responsible for organising recent suicide attacks against Russian forces, and has been dubbed by Moscow as its "public enemy number one".

The interview was filmed last week by the Azerbaijan News Service and broadcast on Friday.

The guerilla leader said he moved constantly between numerous rebel bases in the region.

The interview was cut short when ANS suddenly went off air.

ANS told the BBC that government security officials had told the station not to broadcast the interview.

Defiant

Mr Basayev's claims for Russian deaths far exceed casualty figures reported by Moscow, but both sides have exaggerated the other side's losses in the conflict.

Russian soldier
On guard: Russian soldiers patrolling near Grozny
Wearing a black beret and camouflage battle dress, the rebel commander struck a defiant tone.

"We won't stop fighting before we free the whole Caucasus," he said.

"Today we can assess the situation as positive for us, especially considering the growth in resistance to the Russian occupiers and the general uprising of national liberation."

He also welcomed the backing he said his group was receiving from Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement.

Key role

Russian troops have taken control of most of Chechnya after a sustained and bloody assault on the capital, Grozny, earlier this year.

Shamil Basayev
Warlord: Basayev in Dagestan in August 1999
But Mr Basayev - who lost a foot after stepping on a landmine in January while withdrawing from Grozny - and other fighters have continued to elude capture by hiding in Chechnya's forests and mountains.

He played a key role in the first Chechen war from 1994 to 1996, in which Russia was forced to accept a ceasefire and withdraw its troops.

However, some in Chechnya blame him for helping to start the second Chechen war last September, after his fighters and other militants seized villages in the neighbouring republic of Dagestan.

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See also:

03 Jul 00 | Media reports
Russian horror at Chechen attacks
12 Jun 00 | Europe
Russia appoints Chechen leader
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