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Chechyna: Russian Troops Facing Strong Resistance

Moscow/Grozny, 30 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian troops said today they are facing their strongest resistance yet from rebels since Moscow began its military campaign in September to destroy militants in Chechnya. Russian military sources say the rebels have begun staging ambushes and guerrilla raids in eastern Chechnya and near Urus-Martan, south of Grozny. Moscow says the militants are firing on Russian planes with shoulder-held missiles and large-caliber machine guns. The Russian news agency RIA says militants are preparing for a Russian ground assault on Grozny. The agency quotes unnamed Chechen military commanders as saying rebels are mining buildings, bridges, and roadways.

Earlier today, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, traveled to the North Caucasus to inspect conditions at refugee camps where some 220,000 Chechens have fled the fighting.

Moscow allowed the trip one day after delaying a request for a similar tour by the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have sent a statement to the Kremlin, saying Moscow must keep the promise it made at last week's OSCE summit to allow the OSCE to inspect refugee camps.

Meanwhile, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Sadako Ogata, said Moscow has not given her adequate security guarantees for members of a UNHCR emergency team scheduled to help refugees in the North Caucasus. Ogata said the team is prepared to leave Geneva for Ingushetia as soon as the Kremlin provides the promised security plan.