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Chechnya: Putin Says Russian Military Campaign Has No Deadline

Moscow/Grozny; 24 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian acting President Vladimir Putin says the end of Moscow's military campaign in the breakaway republic of Chechnya will not be timed to "any date on the political calendar." Putin told Russian television (RTR) last night that the timing of the operation is "fully decided by military considerations." Observers in Moscow have charged that Putin may try to end the offensive before the presidential poll in late March. He is widely considered to be the leading candidate.

Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported heavy fighting yesterday in the Chechen capital Grozny. ITAR-TASS quoted Russian military officials saying their forces had captured the northwestern Grozny district of Staropromyslovsky. The first federal claims to have taken the district came on December 28. Before the announcement on Staropromyslovsky, the Russians claimed they controlled one-third of Grozny. But the Chechens said the Russians held no more than 15 percent of the city.

Chechen officials also denied reports from the Russian military that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov had been wounded in a shelling attack. Also, Russian military officials said they had found the body of a general killed last week when he led soldiers in a street battle in Grozny. The Kremlin says the body was sent to Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia.