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Russia: Chechens and Russians Express Will To Keep Fighting

Prague, 14 July 200 (RFE/RL) -- Statements by both Chechen separatist and Russian officials suggest that fighting may continue indefinitely in the Russian breakaway republic.

Top Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basayev said that resistance to Russian rule is growing. He said fighters are getting new recruits and are inflicting casualties. The Azerbaijan News Service videotaped Basayev last week.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin says there will be no let-up in military operations in Chechnya. Putin told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that an independent Chechnya would mean, in his phrase, an "expansion for extremism" and serve as a bridgehead for attacks on Russia."

In the latest fighting, two Russian soldiers in Grozny died when rebels fired on their checkpoint yesterday. Russian officials said another soldier also died in unclear circumstances in Gudermes.

Yesterday, Chechnya's separatist President Aslan Maskhadov called in a telephone interview with Azerbaijan's news service for peace talks with Russia. Russia has rejected any negotiations with the rebels, demanding instead that they surrender.