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DATE=10/22/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L-UPDATE) NUMBER=2-255370 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Moscow's troops were not responsible for a series of explosions that killed more than 100 people in the Chechen capital, Grozny. Mr. Putin denounced what he calls Chechnya's "terrorist regime" during a news conference in Helsinki. But his comments about Russian forces appear to contradict a military spokesman in Moscow, who says the action in Grozny was part of a "special operation" to destroy an illegal arms bazaar. Officials in Chechnya say the victims included civilians in a maternity ward and a mosque. V-O-A Moscow Correspondent Eve Conant reports. TEXT: Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says a series of deadly explosions in Chechnya's capital (late Thursday) were most likely the result of in- fighting between Chechen terrorist gangs. /// PUTIN ACT IN RUSSIAN - IN FULL, FADE UNDER /// "It was a weapons market, a headquarters for bandits," he says. " We can not rule out that the explosions were a result of clashes between rival gangs." The Prime Minister says the Russian military is conducting special operations to combat terrorism, but the Grozny strikes were not part of that campaign. // OPT // Russia's Defense Minister Igor Sergeev says there were no missile strikes against the market. /// SERGEEV ACT IN RUSSIAN - IN AND FADE UNDER /// "No bombs or missile strikes were carried out on Grozny," he says. "But some shooting could be heard, and then there was a powerful blast." // END OPT // However, an earlier report by Russian military spokesman Alexander Veklich indicates there was an orchestrated attack on the market. /// 1st VEKLICH ACT IN RUSSIAN - IN AND UNDER /// "A special operation destroyed the arms market as well as all weapons, explosives, and arms dealers working there," he says. "I would like to stress that the operation was conducted by non-military means, without using either artillery or warplanes." Witnesses said dozens of people died in the blasts, including women and children who were shopping or eating at nearby cafes. News reports from Chechnya say the death toll is likely to rise, because local hospitals lack medicine, electricity and heat. // OPT // Video pictures from Grozny show the destroyed market, with the bodies of dead women and children lying near the shattered stalls. // END OPT // But military spokesman Veklich says there is no way civilians could have suffered from the attack. /// 2ND VEKLICH ACT IN RUSSIAN - IN AND UNDER /// "Civilians do not walk around at night-time in a place where weapons are sold to terrorists. They're sitting at home," he says. "If there were any victims, they were arms dealers peddling weapons to bandits." European Union leaders have renewed their call for Moscow to negotiate with Chechnya's leadership to find a political solution. But Russian leaders say what they describe as their campaign to rout Islamic terrorists from Chechnya is an internal, Russian affair. Russian news reports say government troops are now as close as 12 kilometers from the Chechen capital. Military leaders have ruled out a full-scale attack on Grozny, but have suggested there are plans to surround the city with tanks and troops. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE/WTW 22-Oct-1999 12:03 PM EDT (22-Oct-1999 1603 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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