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Russia: Yeltsin To Defend Russia's Actions In Chechnya

Moscow, 15 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - President Boris Yeltsin says he'll use a European security summit this week to defend Russia's military operation in Chechnya. Russian news agencies say Yeltsin will attend the 18-19 November summit in Istanbul of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Yeltsin said today the West "has no right" to blame Russia for destroying what he called "bandits." He said Moscow would not stop "so long as there is one terrorist left" in Chechnya. The Chechen campaign has come under increasing criticism from western governments because of reports of the high numbers of civilian casualties.

Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov said today at least 4,000 civilians have died in the Russian attacks and that Russia is creating a "zone of destruction" in the breakaway republic.

Russia has said it's not targeting civilians.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek -- the chairman of the OSCE -- told reporters in Oslo the OSCE would press Russia at the summit to provide a timetable for withdrawing troops. He said Moscow's use of extreme force to defeat Chechnya was "unreasonable."

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels also condemned what they called "disproportionate and indiscriminate" force. They urged Moscow to seek a negotiated settlement.

Russian troops in Chechnya, meanwhile, were reported to have continued bombing Grozny and the besieged rebel stronghold of Bamut in the republic's mountainous southwest.