Russians bombard rebel supply route

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The Independent Online

Seeking to encircle Grozny, the Chechen capital, Russia's military pummelled the nearby town of Urus-Martan yesterday with a barrage of artillery rounds and rockets.

Seeking to encircle Grozny, the Chechen capital, Russia's military pummelled the nearby town of Urus-Martan yesterday with a barrage of artillery rounds and rockets.

During lulls in the shelling, the rattle of automatic weapons fire could be heard around the city as Russian troops tried to advance from the west. Urus-Martan, about 12 miles southwest of Grozny, is a main supply route to rebel strongholds in the mountains of southern Chechnya.

Russian forces have already closed in on the Chechen capital from the north, west and east, and are now attempting to take control of the main southern approach to the city. The Russian military said Chechen resistance had increased in recent days, but the militants had not achieved any big gains. The Russians have been extending their attacks, and show no sign of easing up despite the arrival of European diplomats calling for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Knut Vollebaek, chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, arrived in Moscow on Monday and met the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov. But he received no guarantees that he could travel to Chechnya or neighbouring regions in the Caucasus. (AP)

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