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'Grozny' Reveals Grim Realities

July 25, 2002|MARK SACHS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Today in the villages of Chechnya, ragtag rebels fighting for freedom from an oppressive Russian occupation are plotting new strategies to gain the upper hand.

Russian soldiers, meanwhile, are busy revising their own plans in the ongoing campaign to maintain their country's territorial integrity and send an unmistakable warning to other would-be breakaway republics.

And nearby, in the country of Georgia, U.S. forces sent to ferret out Al Qaeda watch with growing concern as the strong-arm Russian tactics drive formerly moderate Chechen refugees in the area into the arms of Islamic extremists.

Welcome to another outpost in the grave new world of global politics, the focus of tonight's harrowing PBS documentary, "Greetings From Grozny" (8 p.m. KCET, 10 p.m. KVCR). Part of the "Wide Angle" series from WNET in New York, the program is filmed from several perspectives around the Chechen capital that take advantage of rarely approved access in some cases and hidden cameras in others.

Segments shot in the homes of village residents as Russian troops on "cleansing missions" arrive to remove suspected rebels have a heart-stopping intensity, and a closing interview with U.S. Ambassador Steve Pifer helps remind us how the seemingly distant developments of today have a way of exploding onto our front pages tomorrow.

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