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Russia: Fighting Continues As Chechen Civilians Air Complaints

Gudermes, 19 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - A Council of Europe delegation visiting Chechnya today heard a litany of complaints from residents of Gudermes about Russian troops -- including allegations of brutality, arrogance, and drunkenness. Reuters reports that Gudermes residents complained Russian soldiers are treating all Chechens as terrorists. The delegation will report its findings to the council's parliamentary assembly, which plans to debate Chechnya next week. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is expected to attend those debates in Strasbourg, France.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued in central Grozny today. The battle is focusing on Minutka Square -- a strategic position that controls the main east-west transport routes through the Chechen capital. Large numbers of Chechens have taken positions within the rubble of destroyed buildings. Yesterday, Russian forces captured a bridge in Grozny across the Sunzha River.

Fighting also continued today in the Argun gorge of southern Chechnya. Moscow says the gorge is a main supply route for arms allegedly smuggled through Georgia. The Kremlin says Argun gorge is the key to controlling Chechnya's southern mountains.