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DATE=11/12/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L) NUMBER=2-256086 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says federal forces have captured one of Chechnya's largest cities. Mr. Putin's announcement comes as international leaders are calling on Moscow to scale down the military campaign in the breakaway republic. But V-O-A Moscow Correspondent Eve Conant reports that Russian officials are showing no signs of reducing their operations in Chechnya. TEXT: Prime Minister Putin says the Russian flag has been raised over Chechnya's second largest city, Gudermes. Communication with Chechen military sources has effectively been cut off, but the loss of Gudermes would signal a significant defeat for Chechen forces. /// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// The prime minister says Russian armed forces have closed in on the two biggest cities in Chechnya, Gudermes, and the capital Grozny. Mr. Putin says, "The Russian flag has already been hoisted over Gudermes and a temporary administration has been elected." Speaking to reporters after a meeting of Russia's top military officials, Prime Minister Putin says the government will take steps to make Russia's military, in his words, "more powerful and effective." At the meeting, Russia's defense minister, Igor Sergeev, lashed out at the West, calling the military policy of the United States and NATO a "challenge to Russia." /// SERGEEV ACT ONE - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "The West wants to weaken Russia and force it out of strategic positions such as the Caspian region, the Caucasus, and Central Asia." The defense minister said what he called the West's aggressive and destabilizing military policy violates international law. Mr. Sergeev added that the United States would benefit from Russia's conflict in Chechnya. /// SERGEEV ACT TWO - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "A smouldering, armed conflict in the Caucasus is in the national interests of the United States." Western leaders have become increasingly vocal about their opposition to what Moscow calls its "anti- terrorist" campaign in Chechnya, which has resulted in civilian casualties and an exodus of nearly 200- thousand refugees. /// REST OPT /// A Kremlin aide says Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe next week in Turkey. The Interfax News Agency quotes Kremlin sources as saying President Boris Yeltsin will lead the Russian delegation at the summit. OSCE officials and other Western leaders are urging Moscow to seek a political solution to the Chechen conflict. But Russia rejects international criticism and says force is necessary to wipe out Islamic terrorists operating inside the breakaway republic. (Signed) NEB/EC/KL 12-Nov-1999 10:27 AM EDT (12-Nov-1999 1527 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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