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Russia: Yeltsin Cuts Short Vacation To Deal With Chechnya

Moscow 3 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin today unexectedly returned to Moscow from his vacation to deal with the Chechen conflict amid growing concern in the West over the humanitarian aspects of the war. Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin but no information on the content of the meeting was immediately available. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu meanwhile was urgently recalled to Moscow from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and was expected to travel to the North Caucasus tomorrow to assess the refugee situation. Putin was told yesterday in Oslo by U.S. President Bill Clinton that Russia should enter into a "political dialogue" with the Chechens. Putin reportedly said Chechnya was an internal Russian problem.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said today in an article published in Russia that the alliance had "serious humanitarian concerns" with Moscow's attacks on Chechnya.

The IMF's director for relations with Russia and other eastern states, John Odling-Smee, who is visiting Moscow, has told Russian officials that the IMF continues to worry that the cost of the Chechen war would affect the budget for 2000, endangering further lending to Russia.

And a UN refugee agency's humanitarian mission has left for the North Caucasus to assess the plight of Chechen refugees. It is estimated than more than 200,000 Chechen refugees are currently in neighboring Russian republics, while an almost equal number have fled their homes but are still within Chechnya.