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Russia: Army Closes Borders To Male Chechens

Moscow/Vienna, 12 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian soldiers today refused to allow males aged 10-60 to enter or leave Chechnya at the border with neighboring Ingushetia. The action was ordered by the Russian government yesterday following a series of successful counterattacks by Chechen fighters against Russian troops over the weekend. Meanwhile, fighting continued in several towns east and south of the Chechen capital Grozny, despite claims by Russian military command that the settlements were "firmly" under the control of its troops.

Russian news agencies reported fighting around Argun, which is east of Grozny, and Shali, which is southeast of Grozny, and in several nearby villages. Heavy fighting continued as well in Grozny, where Russian forces used helicopters and artillery in their attacks on Chechen defenders. Russian artillery and air force also attacked the southern village of Vedeno, which was yesterday abandoned by Chechen fighters.

No independent information about damage and casualties is available.

In Vienna, the new head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, said the Chechen conflict would be one of the main topics for the OSCE during the next year.