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Chechnya: Russian Forces Free Radio Liberty Journalist

Grozny, 3 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky was freed from detention yesterday by Russian forces in Chechnya and is to be transported soon by military aircraft to Moscow. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau has been informed Babitsky will be released when he arrives back in Moscow, under the condition he signs a statement promising not to leave the city. No charges have been filed so far against Babitsky, who was detained last month by Russian forces near Grozny for allegedly having improper accreditation.

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev says Russia's advance into the Chechen capital Grozny is going "two or three times" more quickly than before.

He made the remark yesterday amid Russian claims that its forces now control 50 percent of Grozny and are making steady progress in bringing the rest of the city under their control. Chechen commanders say the Russians are advancing quickly because most of the Chechen forces left Grozny in what was described as a "strategic retreat" on Monday. The Russian military denies the claim, saying it is defeating the bulk of Chechen forces who remain there.