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Russia: Putin Says Russian Forces Control Northern Chechnya

Moscow, 5 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said today that Russian forces control the northern one-third of Chechnya. Russian news agencies quote Putin as saying, however, that Russia's operation to set up a security zone in and around the breakaway republic is far from over. Putin said the final goal of the operation is to destroy terrorist bases in all of Chechnya. The Russian newspaper "Komsomolskaya Pravda" today quotes Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as saying that tens of thousands of Russian soldiers will die because of the Russian military offensive. Chechen officials claim their troops recaptured four villages overnight, killing dozens of Russian soldiers. There has been no independent confirmation of the report. Moscow claims only four of its soldiers have died in the operation so far. At least one Russian died when his attack jet came down yesterday near the town of Urus-Martan, southwest of the capital Grozny. Interfax quotes a Chechen official as saying another Russian jet was downed near Tolstoy-Yurt in northern Chechnya. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that both planes were missing, but he could not say whether they had been shot down.

Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops on three sides of Chechnya as part of a security operation to stamp out Islamic rebels--who Moscow accuses of leading incursions into Dagestan and of organizing terrorist bomb attacks.