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Russia: Military Claims Progress In Dagestan

Makhachkala, 8 September 1999 (RFE/RL) - The Russian military says its troops have made progress against Islamic insurgents in the southern Russian region of Dagestan. The military press service said today government that troops have retaken strategic hills overlooking the Novolakskoye district in western Dagestan that were seized Sunday by rebels streaming across the border from Chechnya. But AFP cites Russian officials as saying the rebels, led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev, have consolidated some positions along the Chechen frontier. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russian forces would be strengthened to whatever level is necessary to defeat insurgents who are trying to establish an Islamic state in the North Caucusus. The incursion is the most serious security threat Russia has faced in the region since the 1994-96 Chechen war. Meanwhile, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports the number of refugees fleeing the fighting has reached 22,000. Caucasus Press cites the Moscow office of UNHCR as saying the refugee situation is worsening by the day.