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Russians, rebels clash in Chechnya

December 15, 1995
Web posted at: 3:50 p.m. EST (2050 GMT)

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GROZNY, Chechnya (CNN) -- Russian troops regained some control in contested parts of Chechnya Friday, following the worst rebel attacks against Russian forces in the breakaway republic in months.

The attacks -- against Gudermes, Chechnya's second largest city -- came as Chechens went to the polls Thursday to elect a president for Chechnya and members of Russia's parliament. Those elections began two days earlier than originally scheduled -- in part to attempt to avoid the threatened rebel attacks. Voting elsewhere in Russia will be on Sunday.

The separatist rebels had demanded that Russian troops leave Chechnya before the elections took place. The elections are expected to keep the Moscow-installed president, Doku Zavgayev, in power.

Rebel forces wearing Russian uniforms slipped in Gudermes Thursday and captured several key points in the town. But on Friday, Russian troops retook those locations.

Military sources said that 22 soldiers were killed in the fighting, 41 were wounded and another 38 were missing.

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"There was a cruel fight... there were big losses," said Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Grachev warned that the Russians would take a "no nonsense" approach to stopping the rebel attacks.

But even as Russian forces retook Gudermes, rebel forces apparently seized key buildings in Urus-Martan, 12 miles southwest of the Chechen capital Grozny. And Russian forces closed ranks around Grozny, fearing rebel attacks there.

In Grozny, the voting -- billed by Moscow and the Chechen government as the only alternative to further bloodshed in the republic -- appeared to have stopped altogether.



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