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Russia: Fierce Fighting Reported In Grozny

Grozny, 24 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Fierce battles are raging today in Grozny as Russian troops continue their week-old assault on the city center. Reports say the heaviest fighting is taking place around the central Minutka Square and a key railway bridge nearby. Federal troops have been battling for days at both strategic sites. Control of the square and the bridge across the Sunzha River would allow Russian forces in southeast Grozny to advance through the city center.

There also are reports of a battle today in Grozny's northeast Staraya Sunzha suburb. That district has been under Russian control, but Russian officers say some Chechens appear to have slipped through the battle lines using underground tunnels.

Elsewhere in Chechnya, both Russian and Chechen forces confirm clashes today in the gorges of Argun and Vedeno -- two Chechen strongholds in the breakaway republic's southern mountains. NTV television, meanwhile, is reporting that the number of Russians killed is at least ten times greater than the two or three soldiers a day admitted by the Kremlin.