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Russia: Interior Minister Rules Out Ground Attack On Chechnya

Moscow, 22 September (RFE/RL) - Russia's deputy interior minister, Lieutenant-General Igor Zubov, has ruled out military intervention in Chechnya for now by his country's ground forces. Speaking in Moscow today, Zubov said some 30,000 Russian troops have effectively sealed off Chechnya from the rest of the Russian Federation by land and air. He said that any intervention in Chechnya by Russian ground forces would cause great casualties. But he said his troops are prepared to go in if ordered by Moscow. Russia accuses Chechnya of serving as the base for two recent invasions of neighboring Dagestan by Islamic guerrillas. Fighting between Russian forces and the Islamic militants in Dagestan and Russian air raids on suspected militant bases in Chechnya have caused hundreds of deaths. Russia also blames Chechen-based terrorists for a series of bombings in Russian cities this month that have killed around 300 people. Zubov said all Islamic fighters have now been cleared out of Dagestan but that they are regrouping in Chechnya and might launch attacks against another north Caucasus region, Ingushetia, next.