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Chechnya: Civilians Short of Water, Food, Supplies

Vienna, 22 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Living conditions for civilians trapped in Grozny are grave, with dwindling supplies of water, food and medicines, the head of an international mediating mission in Chechnya said today.

Swiss diplomat Tim Guldimann, who leads the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Grozny, told a news conference at the organization's Vienna headquarters that civilians hiding in apartment blocks are particularly hard hit.

Guldimann spoke a day after four remaining OSCE staff left Grozny to rebase the OSCE mission in neighboring Ingushetia, following Russian military's threat to start a major attack on Grozny today. No attack is reported to be under way.

Guldimann said he is unable to say how many injured civilians are in extreme need of medical attention in the city.

The Red Cross estimated on Wednesday that about 120,000 civilians remained in Grozny. A similar number had fled in the past two weeks.

Communications between the OSCE mission and Moscow have been difficult over the past two weeks as Guldimann and his colleagues had spent most of their time taking cover in a cellar with only a satellite telephone powered by a car battery.