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Russia: Putin Says Good Relations Developing With UN

Moscow, 28 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian acting President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is developing good relations with the UN. He made the comments today ahead of a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Moscow. Correspondents say Russia's four-month military campaign in Chechnya is expected to be high on the agenda of the talks. Annan yesterday called for a quick end to the conflict and for better treatment of civilians caught in the conflict between Russian troops and Chechen fighters.

Reports from the battlefield say the Russian air force has shifted the focus of its bombing operations in Chechnya away from the capital Grozny toward rebel bases in the mountainous south of the republic. Interfax quotes a spokesman for the North Caucasus command as saying air strikes took out 18 rebel trench and bunker installations, three anti-aircraft batteries, and several mortar nests.

Up to 8,000 Chechen fighters and foreign mercenaries are thought to be camped in the mountains after pulling back from the lowland during widespread fighting since September.

Meanwhile in Moscow, a spokesman for Russia's domestic security service, Aleksandr Zdanovich, says the agency is taking urgent measures to counter possible attacks by Chechen guerrillas on Russian cities. A senior rebel leader, Khattab, told Reuters television his fighters are ready to hit targets in Russia.