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Chechnya: Russia Continues Major Offensive

Moscow, 30 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian officials in Moscow say the military today continued a large-scale offensive against Chechen fighters for the third consecutive day. Konstantin Makayev, the Kremlin's deputy spokesman on Chechnya, said that the aims of the offensive are to encircle the Chechens and destroy them. The Russian forces entered Chechnya eight months ago, ostensibly to root out "Islamic extremists and terrorists." During recent weeks the Russian forces have been repeatedly hit by Chechen ambushes, mainly in the southern mountains but also in other parts of the country--including the capital Grozny.

In a related development, Russia's main official in Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman, says he has fired his deputy, Chechen pro-Moscow commander Bislan Gantemirov.

Koshman said Gantemirov was dismissed for "non-fulfillment of his duties." Koshman also said that the pro-Moscow Chechen militia has lost 295 out of 353 members for absenteeism.