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Russia: Prime Minister Visiting Caucasus

Moscow, 20 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian news agencies say that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is traveling to the North Caucasus military base that is coordinating the Chechen campaign. ITAR-TASS and Interfax said today that Putin will also have a meeting in the southern Russian province of Krisnador on how to deal with the Chechen refugee crisis. Nearly 160,000 people have fled to neighboring republics since fighting began early last month. ORT television says today that Putin will make a quick trip into Chechnya. The government press service said it could not confirm the television report. Meanwhile, Russian forces who secured the northern third of Chechnya are advancing close to the capital, Grozny.