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CNN Today

Chechen War Continues as Russians Prepare for Presidential Election

Aired March 22, 2000 - 1:39 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We no longer hear about it every day, but after six months of fighting, a bloody war still rages in the Russian province of Chechnya. As Russians head to the polls this weekend, hundreds of soldiers remain in that volatile area.

CNN's Matthew Chance is traveling with the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A relentless bombardment in southern Chechnya. As presidential elections approach, Moscow says this bitter war is winding down. But these heavy guns suggest otherwise. Close fighting around Chechnya's southern borders has proved some of the bloodiest of this six-month campaign. The Russian military says these are the last strongholds of rebel fighters, but the authorities admit they may face an upsurge in attacks on Russian troops across the breakaway republic as rebels change their tactics.

But to the north of the war zone, there's still relative peace. In towns and villages across northern Chechnya, fighting was never fierce, although these people still live under the shadow of Russian guns, and there is bitterness at a war many here see as unjust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Not one Chechen supports this counter-terrorist operation, Taking good, honest people and calling them terrorists and bandits, that's not honorable.

CHANCE: But the Russian authorities were keen to show us what they say they have achieved. We were taken to a roadside market to see how commerce had returned now that the rebels have been pushed out. But the Russian censors couldn't stop this:

"My first son was burned to death in a bus," she says. "The other two have disappeared. There is a prison here, but the Russians won't say if they're being held."

(on camera): Now, as presidential elections approach, the Russians have this: Tens of thousands of troops deployed across a volatile breakaway republic with simmering bitterness and the very real possibility of guerrilla attack around every corner.

Matthew Chance, CNN, near the Chechen capital, Grozny. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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