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Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo

February 28, 2000, The Government House, Moscow

Mr Sergeyev and Mr Rushailo reported on the situation in the North Caucasus and the progress of the counter-terrorist operation in the Chechen Republic.

The interior minister said that the operation in Chechnya had entered its final stage, and in many places law-enforcement functions had been delegated to the police and interior troops.

He added that an ammunition depot had been found in Argun in the last 24 hours. It contained 40 kg of TNT and a lot of weapons and ammunition. The police and interior troops had detained 30 members of illegal armed formations in the last two days.

The Interior Ministry, in cooperation with Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman, the Russian government's envoy to Chechnya, has drafted a plan of joint measures to assist the local authorities in restoring the republic's social infrastructure, Mr Rushailo said.

Mr Putin asked the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office to consider whether Andrei Babitsky, the Radio Freedom correspondent detained in Makhachkala with a false passport, should be kept in detention. ”I have the impression that he has found himself in a complicated situation,“ the acting president told journalists later. ”I believe that Babitsky's main task was not to simply cover events, but to sell a certain news product. And I believe he has managed well.“ He said that he did not see any reason for keeping the correspondent in custody. ”If law-enforcement agencies have questions to Andrei Babitsky, they can be asked without keeping him detained,“ he noted.

February 28, 2000, The Government House, Moscow