Helsinki, 22 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin today told European Union leaders that Moscow does not plan to solve the Chechnya crisis by military means. Putin, in Helsinki for a EU summit, said the conflict is "political" and that Russia intends to solve it by "political means." Earlier today, EU leaders urged Moscow to immediately enter negotiations to reach a political settlement of the conflict. Putin's comments came after a missile attack on a market in the Chechen capital of Grozny late yesterday. The prime minister confirmed troops conducted a "special operation" and said there was an explosion in Grozny, but said the market was a weapons bazaar. News agencies report a large number of civilian casualties but Russian forces spokesman Colonel Aleksandr Veklich denied any civilians were killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, Russian television station TV Center said the Chechen
president's representative in the Russian capital (Mayrbek Vachagayev) was in police custody after officers found a pistol in his car along with maps of Russian military positions in Chechnya.