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Russia: Battles Continue In Chechnya's Argun And Vedeno Gorges

Grozny, 15 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian forces in Chechnya are continuing their assault against rebel positions in the Argun and Vedeno gorges in the south of the republic. Most Chechen fighters are believed to be sheltering in the gorges and surrounding mountains, after being forced out of the Chechen capital Grozny. Ground clashes were reported today around the villages of Itum-Kale, at the southern end of the Argun gorge and in Gekhi-Chu and Duba-Yurt.

In Grozny itself, Russian commanders say their troops continue patrols aimed at flushing out an estimated 400 Chechen fighters believed to still be in the city. The Russian military says it is closing off civilian access to Grozny until March 1 to prevent Chechen fighters from re-entering the city.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev has pledged that the military stage of Moscow's offensive in Chechnya will be over within a month.