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CNN Today

Russian Troops Face Morale Crisis in Chechnya

Aired January 25, 2000 - 2:50 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Chechnya is not on the summit's agenda, but it is very much on the minds of the Russian people and media. There is open speculation that Russian casualties are much higher than officially reported.

Yesterday, we showed you this recent footage, shot by Chechen rebels, of an attack of a Russian garrison. The images suggest that the rebels, despite being under heavy siege for months, still are a potent fighting force.

Now Russians are reacting and we get that part of the story from ITN's Julian Manyon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIAN MANYON, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): As the battle for Grozny continues, the Russian army has been mourning the most senior officer it has lost in this was. General Igor Malafeyev (ph) died in the Chechen capital last week, shot by a rebel sniper as he tried to rally demoralized Russian troops at the front.

Some believe that his death indicates a crisis of morale in the Russian army.

PAVEL SELGENHAUR, MILITARY ANALYST: He tried to rally troops that didn't want to go into battle, and instead of following the general, the troops just simply fell back in panic, and abandoned their general to the enemy.

MANYON: Meanwhile, the controversy over Russia's was losses is growing with persistent accusations that the Russian army is hiding the truth.

The most dramatic evidence is this Chechen rebel video obtained exclusively by ITN. It shows a Russian armored unit destroyed by the rebels, and it shows a rebel attack on the key town of Argun, where a number of Russians were killed and others captured.

We showed the video to women from the Organization of Soldiers' Mothers, which is campaigning for more accurate information to be given about the war. They were shocked and saddened by what they saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): For me, it is as if i was back in the last Chechen was in 1995. It's proof that our Defense Ministry has not told the truth about the number of killed? How can we even locate the bodies of these dead soldiers? What will their mothers do?

MANYON (on camera): It's not clear how the Russian public will react to the gradual realization that military losses are heavy. Some believe that the wave of nationalist feeling about the war is simply unstoppable. All that is certain is that a growing number of Russian mothers will not be getting their sons back, but will instead receive a coffin.

Julian Manyon, ITN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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