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The BBC's Andrew Harding reports
"Grozny is a city of rubble"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 March, 2000, 17:25 GMT
Russia admits heavy losses
Funeral of Russian personnel
Russia admits its losses have sharply worsened this week
Russia has reported some of its worst losses since the Chechen conflict began five months ago, but maintains it is close to taking complete control of the rebel republic.
Battle for the Caucasus

Colonel-General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the armed forces' general staff, said that 156 servicemen had been killed and another 157 wounded in the region during the past week.

He also confirmed that 84 paratroops from a single company were killed in one incident.


Grozny flats
Russian forces are in control in Grozny, but the mountains are less secure
He said that Russian forces are now battling against 2,500 to 3,500 rebels in Chechnya, many of whom were holed up in the village of Ulus-Kert near Shatoi in the mountains south of Grozny.

Interfax said Russian aircraft carried out about 70 raids on rebel positions in the mountains on Thursday, a higher rate than in recent days.

General Manilov said that Chechen commanders Shamil Basayev and Khattab, as well as Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, were in Ulus-Kert.

He said about 1,000 of the Chechen rebels were "mercenaries" from Arab countries, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Bosnia and the Baltics.

Blockaded

For the fifth day in a row, crack troops have been attacking the village of Komsomolskoye, which was seized by a group of rebels who broke through the Russian lines south of Grozny.

The village "is completely blockaded," and Russian troops are now occupying the northern part of it, General Manilov said.

He called on Chechen forces led by Ruslan Gelayev to lay down their arms or die.

Direct rule

Acting President Vladimir Putin has proposed two years of direct rule from the Kremlin, after presidential elections at the end of this month.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin foresees presidential rule
"Those still holding arms, in mountain caves - they must be dispersed and wiped out," Mr Putin said.

"After the presidential election, we could probably introduce direct presidential rule there for a couple of years."

Mr Putin ruled out recognising any form of Chechen independence, saying it needed leaders who wanted to stay within Russia.

"We should create a local elite which would understand it is an advantage for Chechnya to be part of Russia," he said.

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09 Mar 00 | Europe
Playing the Chechnya card
08 Mar 00 | Europe
Chechen rebels 'surrounded'
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