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Russia: Ivanov Critical Of West Over OSCE Visit To Chechnya

Moscow/Grozny, 2 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia says it will not let the West dictate the timing of Knut Vollebaek's planned visit to Chechnya. Vollebaek is the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Moscow has so far failed to give a date for Vollebaek's trip. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov angrily said that Russia "does not give advice to Germany or France" about when Vollebaek should go to their countries. Germany and France have been among states critical of Russia's military tactics in Chechnya and its failure to make good on a promise for the OSCE's visit. Meanwhile, Russia's Interfax news agency today quoted Chechen commander Isa Munayaev as saying that there were clashes between Chechen and Russian forces along the entire frontline in the breakaway republic.

Russian news agencies said that Chechen fighters were putting effective resistance to Russian efforts to capture the town of Argun, 5 km east of the capital Grozny. The agencies also quote Russia's military as saying the Chechens turned Grozny and the southern town of Urus-Martan into strongholds to ward off any possible attacks.

The Chechen Internet web site reported continuing Russian air, missile, and artillery bombardment of Grozny, Argun and Urus-Martan. Heavy losses by both sides were reported, but it was impossible to independently confirm those claims.