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Chechnya: Russians Claim Successes In Grozny

Moscow/Gudermes, 7 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russia is claiming a series of successes in its war against separatist rebels in Chechnya. Federal forces said they had killed about 140 Chechen fighters in Grozny, seized control of the railway station in the center of the capital, and reached the outskirts of the southern rebel stronghold of Vedeno. None of the claims could be independently confirmed. They were rejected by Chechen spokesmen, who said rebel fighters are continuing to put up fierce resistance. Western and Russian reports said Russian efforts to take Grozny were being slowed by bad weather conditions and that casualties among Russian soldiers are greater than Moscow has admitted so far. Russia says less than 500 Defense and Interior Ministry troops have been killed in Chechnya since September.

Nikolai Koshman, Moscow's top civilian envoy to Chechnya, said seizing Grozny has turned out to be more difficult than expected for the Russians. He said the city should have been taken earlier by federal forces.