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DATE=10/17/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA-CHECHNYA (L) NUMBER=2-255152 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian military leaders say they aim to command the heights around Chechnya's capital, Grozny. But officials say there will be no large-scale military operation in the region. Moscow Correspondent Eve Conant reports Russian artillery continues to pound targets near the capital. TEXT: Military officials say the next step in what they call their -- anti-terrorist campaign -- is to control the strategic heights around Chechnya's capital. But they have avoided saying if Russian forces plan to take and control Grozny. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says (Sunday) Moscow will not carry out, what he called -- a large- scale military action with tanks and troops. But he said air strikes against the breakaway republic would continue. The Interfax news agency reports Russian bombs hit a cement factory 25-kilometers from Grozny, and that forces are also shelling villages near the capital. Prime Minister Putin says Russian forces are trying to avoid civilian casualties. But refugees fleeing the republic accuse Russia of randomly attacking civilian villages. More than 150-thousand Chechens have fled to neighboring Ingushetia to escape the air raids, with a reported five-thousand arriving in the past two days. Russian leaders have vowed to wipe out Islamic militants in Chechnya. The militants twice led incursions into neighboring Dagestan in an attempt to establish an independent Islamic state. Moscow officials also blame the militants for a series of deadly apartment bombings that killed nearly 300- people. Prime Minister Putin has said Moscow will negotiate with Chechnya's President Aslan Maskhadov only if he first hands over the militant leaders. (SIGNED) NEB/EC/ALW/RAE 17-Oct-1999 09:06 AM EDT (17-Oct-1999 1306 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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