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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Says Grozny Surrounded

MOZDOK, Chechnya-- Russia's military command said Monday its forces had fully surrounded the Chechen capital of Grozny and expect to cleanse the city of the remaining rebel fighters within several days.

A top Russian official, meanwhile, unveiled government plans for Chechnya, saying the emphasis will be put on rebuilding the rural areas rather than the devastated capital. The program will make it easier for Moscow to control the separatist republic.

The Russian government said its troops had thrown a second defense cordon around the city, thus "fully excluding the possibility" of rebel reinforcements coming in, a government statement said.

But the Chechens' chief military commander, Aslan Maskhadov, said his separatist forces, who have been fighting Russian troops since Dec. 11, were now "much stronger than when we started -- in both spirit and organization."

Russian big guns opened up on Chechen positions south of Grozny shortly after dawn Monday following an overnight lull. On Sunday they bombarded separatist forces in the town of Argun just east of the capital.

(AP, Reuters)