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Russia: Putin Rules Out Meeting With Chechen Leader

Grozny, 27 September 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today said that no meeting was planned between President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov to resolve the crisis in Chechnya. Putin said in Moscow after meeting with Yeltsin that such meetings would only benefit the Islamic militants. Maskhadov said in an interview published today in the Russian newspaper "Moskovsky Komsomolets" that at least 300 civilians have been killed since Russia began air strikes against targets in Chechnya last week.

Today, Russia continued air strikes against Chechnya for the fifth consecutive day, attacking oil rafineries and communication sites around the capital Grozny. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said that the strikes will continue until the militants are destroyed.

Russia says the strikes are aimed at destroying Chechnya-based Islamic extremists, who twice invaded the neighboring republic of Dagestan with the intention of setting up an Islamic state in the North Caucasus.

Russian officials also blame the Islamic extremists for a recent spate of bombing which killed more than 300 people in Moscow and other cities.