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Russia: Army Said To Repel Grozny Breakout Attempts

Moscow, 17 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian Federal Military headquarters says troops prevented overnight attempts by Chechen separatists to break out of the besieged Chechen capital Grozny. The headquarters says the Chechens made six attempts to break out, apparently with the intention of escaping to the mountains. Each time they were turned back by encircling Russian forces with heavy losses. The headquarters also said Russian artillery and mortar attacks on the city resumed this morning. There's no independent confirmation of the Russian claims. Russian General Gennadii Troshov yesterday warned of "ecological disaster" in Grozny, where fires are burning and where the effects of explosions of chlorine and ammonia plants last month are reportedly evident. The Russian army has accused the Chechen fighters of having used chemical weapons during the fighting for Grozny.

Meanwhile, the plight of the thousands of civilians still in the city is expected to be the focus of talks today between the president of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe and Russian acting President Vladimir Putin.

David Russell-Johnston told reporters last night that Russia could face expulsion from the council if it persistes with its offensive, condemned by Western countries as excessive and indiscriminate. The council promotes human rights in Europe.