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Chechen Capital Grozny Heavily Damaged After Six-Months of Russian Bombardment

Aired March 24, 2000 - 1:28 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: After a six-month campaign, the Russian Army today controls most of the breakaway region of Chechnya. But during the fighting, the Chechen capital Grozny was heavily damaged.

CNN's Matthew Chance today reports from the rubble.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not a village or a town, but an entire city laid to waste. How many lives have been lost beneath this rubble? Grozny lies in complete ruin, its people shattered by an intensive bombardment that has brought their homes to this.

"It's been a nightmare," says this women. "We lived in cellars for months as bombs fell above us. Even the Russian soldiers looked frightened when they found we were still alive."

CHANCE: Now the troops drive through this devastated city, their music turned up loud to fill the silence. Months of shelling ahead of a relentless Russian advance wore this city down, forcing rebel fighters out and reducing the population to those too poor or too old to leave.

(on camera): More than anything else, the destruction of this city has become a potent symbol of Russia's war in Chechnya. The damage is overwhelming. Standing here in the rubble of Grozny, it's hard to imagine how this city or its people can ever recover.

(voice-over): But survival comes before recovery and these people are hardly managing that. With nothing left of their own, they turn to Russians for hot food. But no amount of charity can calm their anger and sense of loss.

"I've buried my own relatives here," says this women. "This war has been against civilians, not rebels. It's been about the destruction of an entire nation."

All across Chechnya, there is bitterness with what the Russians have done in the name of fighting rebels they call terrorists and bandits. But nowhere in this breakaway republic are the scars of bitter conflict deeper than here.

Matthew Chance, CNN, in the Chechen capital, Grozny.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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