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Chechnya: Russia Provides Conflicting Reports On Casualties

Moscow, 7 March 2000 (RFE/RL) - Conflicting reports about Russian casualties dominate today's news from the Chechen war. The AVN Russian defense news agency cites Russian field commanders who say 73 paratroopers and 13 officers were killed on 29 Feb. by Chechen fighters in a battle near Ulus-Kert.But Russian paratroop commander General Georgy Shpak says only 31 men died in that battle. The AVN casualty figures are confirmed by the governor of Russia's northwestern Pskov region, Yevgeny Mikhailov, who says the victims were from the Pskov division.

Casualty numbers in a more recent exchange of fire near Grozny were also disputed, with local Russian commanders saying that 37 members of Russia's OMON police brigade were killed, while Moscow insists that only 12 died.

Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky says troops will now chop down trees and clear forests in Chechnya to deprive rebels of hiding places.

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