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Pro-Moscow Chechen Police Fire Into The Air To Control Grozny Crowd

Grozny, July 26 (RFE/RL) -- Chechnya's pro-Moscow police today fired into the air to stop hundreds of independence supporters moving towards a government building in the center of the Chechen capital, Grozny.

The demonstrators were demanding a withdrawal of Russian troops and an end to the 19-month-old Chechen conflict. Itar-Tass reports that the demonstration had been organized by the Council of Political Parties of Chechnya.

The crowd dispersed after being stopped at a crossroads some 200 meters from checkpoints sealing off the government buildings, according to Reuter News Agency.

Meanwhile, the Russian military command in Chechnya says Russia is to begin withdrawing a regiment from the breakaway republic today. However, fighting continues in southern mountain areas of the breakaway republic.

The Interfax news agency quoted a Russian Interior Ministry spokesman as saying a group of up to 100 Chechen separatists tried to storm the village of Bamut in southwestern Chechnya last night, but were repulsed by Russian troops.

There was no word on casualties. Russian troops seized Bamut at the end of May, after besieging it for months with heavy rockets and artillery attacks.