Russia

Russian officials say Chechen campaign nearing completion

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Prime Minister Putin said on 22 December after talks at the Kremlin with Russian President Boris Yeltsin that the military campaign in Chechnya is almost over, but "we shall not impose any time limit," Reuters reported. The previous day, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo had said that a deadline exists for taking Grozny, according to Interfax. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev denied, however, that the storm of Grozny is scheduled for 22-24 December, according to AFP. The commander of the federal forces in the North Caucasus, Colonel General Viktor Kazantsev, told ITAR-TASS in Mozdok that a "special operation" will be launched to liberate Grozny, but that it will not entail a frontal attack on the capital. Kazantsev said Russian forces hope to take control of the mountainous areas of southern Chechnya "in the next two-three weeks." LF
CHECHEN, FEDERAL TROOPS CLASH SOUTH OF GROZNY

Federal forces clashed with Chechen fighters near Serzhen-Yurt, southeast of Grozny, on 21 December, AP reported quoting the commander of the eastern sector, Lieutenant General Gennadii Troshev. Fighting continued on 22 December at the mouth of the Shatoi gorcge that leads southwards into the Caucasus mountains. Aslanbek Ismailov, who commands the Chechen forces defending Grozny, said that Russian units are engaged in daily fighting all around the encircled capital. Air and artillery bombardment of Grozny continued on 21 December, and artillery fire overnight was the heaviest for 10 days, Reuters reported quoting Grozny Mayor Lecha Dudaev. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SUMMONED OVER KILLINGS OF RUSSIAN VILLAGERS

The North Caucasus branch of the Russian Prosecutor-General's office has summoned Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov for questioning in connection with the deaths of some 34 Russians in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 21 December. The residents of the village of Mikenskaya were reportedly shot dead on 8 October. Their bodies were exhumed when federal forces liberated the village and witnesses to the shootings are being questioned. LF

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