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CNN Today

Chechen Capital Grozny Demolished Though Fighting Stopped

Aired February 10, 2000 - 1:42 p.m. ET

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

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Chechen rebels may have been driven out of Grozny, the Chechen capital, but they're not out of the war. Russian officials say that rebels attacked two military trains this week triggering a battle described as long and fierce. And as for Grozny, the fighting has stopped, but the once-bustling city might never be the same.

CNN's Matthew Chance is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Grozny is in Russian hands, but at what cost? Once a city of 400,000 people, the Chechen capital has been smashed. Hardly a building is left intact. The Russians are urging people to return, but the only residents here are the ones too poor or too old to leave.

This woman says she sheltered in a damp cellar for months as Russian bombs and artillery laid waste to her home. "I stayed because everything I have is here," she says.

The debris of Russia's intensive campaign litters the streets of Grozny and the fields of villages outside. The enormous casings of powerful Russian bombs could be a reminder of the overwhelming firepower unleashed on this place. But no reminder is needed here.

YUSUP SAIDOV, GROZNY RESIDENT (through translator): There is nothing left. Everything is gone; everything we had for our children taken away by Russian soldiers. You can see it for yourself.

CHANCE: You can also see bodies. Just how many Chechen civilians were killed in Russia's latest pounding of Grozny Kremlin officials can't say.

SERGEI YASTRZEMBSKY, PRESIDENTIAL AIDE (through translator): I have no such data yet. In Grozny, we face huge limitations. Movement is allowed only on narrow strips of ground that have been checked for mines. Really, too much of the area is mined.

CHANCE: As survivors of the bombardment emerge from the ruins, the Russians have opened a soup kitchen in the street. At least these people won't starve. But there is bitterness and pain that so many lives have been reduced to this.

LEEZA, GROZNY RESIDENT: I used to live here, now they're inviting us back to our homes. But where is my home now?

CHANCE: Russian control may have returned to this devastated city, but the price of peace has been high.

(on camera): Now Russian officials say their forces are preparing for a new phase in the conflict, gathering their strength for a final push towards the last rebel strongholds in the mountains of the South. The battle for Grozny may have been won, but Russia's war in Chechnya appears far from over.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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