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Fighting Continues in Chechnya


Russian troops are sweeping the Chechen town of Argun, looking for Chechen rebels believed to be in the area. At least two Russian soldiers have died and a number were wounded in some of the bloodiest battles in months in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya.

Most of the fighting took place in Argun, the third-largest city in Chechnya. It has been the site of frequent clashes between Russian soldiers and Chechen rebels. Russian soldiers closed off Argun last week in an attempt to flush out Chechen rebels who were believed to be hiding in the area.

Many of the Chechen rebels are believed to have fled fighting in nearby Tsotsin-Yurt, east of the capital, Grozny.

Russian television showed pictures of Russian troops riding on armored vehicles searching for Chechen rebels as a heavy snow fell on Argun streets during Orthodox Christmas.

Throughout Chechnya there are frequent small-scale clashes and ambushes by groups of rebels fighting Russian troops. But observers say the recent clashes are some of the harshest in the region in months.

Chechen rebels reported that they had killed scores of Russian troops, while the Russian military said it had killed more than a 100 Chechen rebels. The casualty figures could not be confirmed.

Russian troops fought a bloody war in Chechnya from 1994 until 1996. Russian forces re-entered the breakaway region again in 1999, in response to Chechen incursions into neighboring Dagestan, and a series of bombings in Russia that officials blamed on Chechen rebels.

Russian officials say they have the situation under control but soldiers, Chechen fighters and civilians are wounded or die almost daily as fighting continues.

With the exception of senior Chechen leader Salman Raduyev, who was sentenced to life in prison in December by a Russian court, Moscow has captured few of the top Chechen leadership.

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