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Grachev Says Military Operations In Chechnya Will Stop Soon

Moscow, March 26 (RFE/RL) - Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev says "large-scale military activities in Chechnya will stop" after President Boris Yeltsin unveils a peace plan for the breakaway republic in a nationwide television address due this weekend.

Grachev said, however, that "special operations" against small rebel units would likely continue after the peace plan is announced.

Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency reported today that several hundred Russian Interior Ministry troops and pro-Moscow Chechen security forces have launched an operation in the Chechen capital Grozny to secure it against any possible new rebel attacks.

Correspondents said the operation includes blockading parts of Grozny and checking houses where rebels are presumed to be based. But the capital was reported relatively quiet today, with only three clashes reported since yesterday and most of the fighting taking place in the western part of Chechnya.

Fresh fighting is reported today in southwest, where Russian forces are continuing their assault on separatist positions.Word on the new fighting comes from the Russian Defense ministry, and the Russian assault is said to include heavy artillery and war planes.

Russian General Nikolai Tkachev told Interfax that the villages of Bamut, Orekhovo and Stary Achkoi all came under attack. Russian troops also were conducting a street by street operation to clear the village of Samashki of separatist fighters.

Two Russian servicemen were reported killed and another 17 wounded in fighting yesterday. There was no word on separatist losses.