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Russia: Fighting Reported In Southern Chechnya

Urus-Martan/Moscow, 7 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - News agencies report fighting today between Russian troops and Chechen fighters around the villages of Shami-Yurt and Katyr-Yurt in southern Chechnya. The agencies say the Russian troops were trying to stop the Chechen fighters, who had left the capital Grozny last week, from moving to the mountain bases.

The agencies quoted unnamed Russian officers as saying that their helicopters and artillery focused their attacks on roads leading south, particularly near the villages of Gekhi Chu, Tangi Chu and Martan Chu in the foothills.

Russian officers said the Chechens suffered heavy casualties, but independent confirmation of any claims of damage of casualties were impossible.

In a related development, Vladimir Kulikov, former commander of Russian troops in Chechnya and an ex-interior minister, said in an interview published today in Moscow that Russia should not consider the capture of Grozny as signaling the end of the conflict in Chechnya. Kulikov said that while a "difficult stage has been completed, this does not mean the the final stage is completed." Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said in an interview published in the Barcelona daily "La Vanguardia" that the Chechens would retake Grozny at a later date.