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Chechnya: Russian Assault On Capital City Of Grozny Seems Imminent

Moscow, 23 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russian military officials said late yesterday they are using warplanes and artillery to attack rebel bases in the mountains of southern Chechnya. Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov had reportedly ordered all fighters to move to mountain strongholds, with the exception of those defending the capital city of Grozny. Maskhadov's spokesman (Said-Selim Abdulmuslimov) said fighting continued in various parts of Grozny and a Russian assault on the city appeared likely. Yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya may end "soon," but declined to be specific.

Meanwhile, Itar-Tass says the Russian Permanent Chamber for Human Rights will today meet to discuss the plight of more than 220,000 refugees who have fled Chechnya since Moscow began its campaign to destroy rebel forces in September.

Some Chechens who fled to neighboring Ingushetia have told visiting UN officials that Russians in charge of refugee camps were not giving them food. One Russian official said food was not being given to people from areas now considered safe.