TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L-UPDATE)
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
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
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)
22-Oct-1999 12:03 PM EDT (22-Oct-1999 1603 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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