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Russians bombard stronghold.

Federal forces bombarded roads and footpaths in Chechnya's southern mountains yesterday, trying to prevent rebel raids into Russian-controlled villages.

Meanwhile acting Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed to a European delegation to see Russia's side in the war.

Russian airplanes and artillery pummeled the region of Vedeno, a key rebel stronghold deep in the mountains, targeting the outskirts of the villages of Kurchaloi, Benoi, Tsa-Vedeno and Vedeno, about 60 kilometers south of the capital Grozny.

According to Russian reconnaissance reports, rebels are active in the region and are planning to storm Russian-held villages.

The federal forces want to prevent any repeat of militants' raids on three Russian-controlled towns earlier this month, which cast doubts on the military's reports of a smooth operation in Chechnya.

Russian troops in the region were jumpy.

"If the Chechens come today, we'll be easily defeated," said Alexei Migulin, a Russian soldier stationed in Kurchaloi. He said that the 150 troops in the village had enough ammunition to last only ten minutes.

In Moscow, Mr Putin and other senior Russian officials met for more than three hours with a delegation from the 41-nation Council of Europe, the continent's highest human-rights body.

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes and helicopter gunships unleashed some of the heaviest airstrikes in weeks.

Jets strafed several villages at the entrance to the strategic Argun gorge.

Federal aircraft also targeted the Chechen capital Grozny.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 18, 2000
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