Moscow, 30 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Chechen fighters are reported to be strengthening their positions in central Grozny as Russian forces continue to press slowly in from the outskirts of the city. Correspondents in Grozny yesterday reported that Chechen fighters remain in full control of the downtown area despite continuing barrages of Russian artillery and skirmishing in the northwestern part of the capital.
Russian troops made some progress forward yesterday, saying they now control the Staropromyslovskaya district. Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov confirmed the Russian advance there, and said his fighters have left certain parts of the district to regroup their lines of defense.
Meanwhile, Russian soldiers are reported to have freed six western journalists arrested yesterday in the Pervomayskaya district, some 10 kms northwest of Grozny. Officials of the Washington Post and Daily Telegraph said their reporters and the others were released after interrogations at a Russian military base at Mozdok in neighboring North Ossetia. A foreign ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS news agency that the reporters were detained for not having been accredited in the unified federal group in the North Caucasus or in the Russian mission to Chechnya.