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Russia: Yeltsin Calls Crisis Meeting On Chechnya

Moscow, 20 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - President Boris Yeltsin today summoned his top security officials to discuss Russia's military campaign against the breakaway republic of Chechnya. The Kremlin said Yeltsin met with his defense and interior ministers, and that the foreign minister and heads of the intelligence services also attended. The crisis meeting was held at a country residence outside Moscow where Yeltsin is recovering from the flu. A Kremlin spokesman declined to give more details on the meeting. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today flew to the North Caucasus to tour military bases around Chechnya. He was also expected to meet with authorities in the southern Stavropol region to discuss the refugee situation there. Russia launched its offensive against Chechnya late last month in retaliation for the raiding by Chechen-based guerrillas of the neighboring republic of Dagestan. Chechen fighters are also blamed for a series of bombing attacks in Russian cities that killed nearly 300 people. Russian forces already occupy one third of the breakaway republic. Russian news reports said air strikes continued today across the republic and government forces pounded the suburbs of the capital Grozny.

Some 170,000 people have already fled Chechnya to escape the fighting.