Chechens dig in for final onslaught

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CHECHEN FIGHTERS in Grozny fear Russian troops will use chemical weapons when they finally attack the city.

The claim was made by Rustam Kaliev, a Chechen journalist who got out of the capital yesterday by crawling through a tunnel under an embankment where Russian troops stood. Last week guerrillas fled their trenches in a sector of the front when gas, which may have escaped from an industrial plant hit by a shell, killed six civilians. Russians occupied their positions. The Russians have admitted giving their soldiers antidotes for chemical weapons, claiming they might be used by the guerrillas.

Mr Kaliev, who spoke to many guerrillas and leaders in Grozny, said they expressed as much hatred for the Wahhabis, an Islamic extremist group, as the Russians.

When the war began the Chechens hoped Russian units would incur heavy losses in street fighting in Grozny but they have become dispirited by the Russians' reliance on air and artillery attacks. There were only 1,200 fighters left in the city, a lot fewer than previously estimated, Mr Kaliev said. Many left at the start of the month, just before the Russian encirclement of the city.

Guerrillas split, page 12