Saturday, November 13, 1999 Published at 20:26 GMT
Chechnya campaign at 'turning point'
Intensifying Russian campaign brings about a turning piont
A decisive turning point has been reached in the Russian campaign in Chechnya, according to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The surrender of the town of Gudermes to the Russians signalled this change, according to Mr Putin. He said that the Chechen people were now supporting the Russian campaign.
Reports say that federal troops have been advancing both to the east and west of the Chechen capital, Grozny, after the most intense air raids so far.
The Chechen Health Minister Umar Khanbiyev said on Saturday that "not less than 100" people were killed in Friday's air strikes.
But new assaults were launched against the village of Bamut and on the outskirts of the town of Argun in eastern Chechnya, while mopping-up continued in Gudermes.
No bowing to pressure
Vlaldimir Putin's comments came after a meeting of the Russian Security Council.
The prime minister once again refused to consider negotiations with the Chechen leadership, accusing them of being "bandits and terrorists."
Responding to criticism, Mr Putin defended the Russian campaign in a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
"Russia is prepared for a political settlement to the Chechen problem, but not with those who have posed (for pictures) over the corpses of our citizens," Putin's press secretary quoted him as telling the secretary general.
Mr Annan, had sharply criticised Moscow's military action in Chechnya, saying it has gone far beyond its original aims.
Russia should "take immediate steps to protect the civilian population from further suffering," he added.
Deepening refugee crisis
The intensity of the conflict in Chechnya and the plight of the civilian population has led to an increasing amount of international attention.
Chechnya is expected to be the main talking point at a summit in Istanbul next week of the European security organisation, the OSCE.