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Russia: Gantamirov Says Another 34 Rebels Surrender In Grozny

Moscow, 31 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Pro-Russian Chechen commander Bislan Gantamirov says 34 Chechen fighters surrendered today to Russian forces in the capital, Grozny. That brings the number of Chechen separatists reported to have given up to the Russians over the past three days to more than 200. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev says the surrender of many of Grozny's defenders signals a turning point in the four-month conflict. Sergeyev spoke to journalists after a meeting with acting President Vladimir Putin today.

The Russian army says its troops control 40 percent of Grozny. Chechen separatist leaders, meanwhile, are denying reports they intend to give up the city. Chechen rebel commander Aslanbek Ismailov said Russian forces are still unable to take strategic Minutka Square, an important junction leading to the city's center. Ismailov said 50 Russian soldiers were killed in the area last night. There was independent confirmation of either Russian or Chechen claims.