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Russia: More Than 120,000 Have Fled Chechnya

Moscow, 6 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Emergencies Ministry says the number of refugees fleeing the fighting in the breakaway Chechen republic has surpassed 120,000 as internal refugees continue to flood into the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia. Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on three sides of Chechnya as part of a security operation to stamp out Islamic rebels who are accused of leading separatist incursions into Dagestan and of organizing terrorist bomb attacks. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Russian forces have seized the northern third of Chechnya and that the plan to set up a security zone in and around Chechnya is far from over. Reports from Grozny say Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has declared martial law to protect what he calls the republic's "sovereignty."