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Russia: Conflicting Reports From Grozny

Grozny/Moscow, 29 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Moscow says its troops are gradually but persistently advancing towards the center of Grozny but Chechen fighters say they are beating back the offensives. Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Valeri Manilov told reporters yesterday that federal troops are now at a distance of two to five kilometers from downtown Grozny as they move in from the northwest, northeast and south. He also predicted his forces will capture the Chechen capital within 10 days.

But correspondents in the city center reported no Russian forces penetrated there yesterday and that bands of Chechen fighters continue to patrol downtown neighborhoods. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov vowed again yesterday that Chechen forces would beat back any ground offensive.

Meanwhile there are conflicting reports on whether Chechen fighters in Grozny are running out of ammunition. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said they were. But Chechen commander Isa Munayev said reinforcements have slipped past Russian blockades to strengthen the Chechen defenses in the city.

Both sides agree that fierce street battles are taking place around the capital. Fighting is also reported to be continuing elsewhere in Chechnya near the Argun and Vedeno gorges.