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Yeltsin: Let Chechen war be lesson

MOSCOW, Jan. 19 -- Forty days after he shocked his countrymen and the world by sending troops in a bloody show of force to suppress separatists in the republic of Chechnya, President Boris Yeltsin has pronounced the military campaign practically over and said it was time to rebuild the war-ravaged territory. The Kremlin chief, whose actions were criticized and questioned at home and abroad and who won support only from Russia's ultranationalist right wing, said the tragedy of the Chechen war should be a lesson for politicians and for Russians and Chechens alike . But Yeltsin left the meaning of such a tragic lesson open for interpretation, though the issue is likely to be the subject of continued debate. 'I address citizens of Russia, the world community, everybody who followed the progress of developments in the Chechen republic with concern and sympathy,' Yeltsin said in a statement rushed out by his Kremlin press office shortly after Moscow's troops seized Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev's presidential palace. 'I inform everybody that the military stage of the restoration of the Constitution of Russia in Chechen Republic is practically completed, ' Yeltsin said after the takeover of the building, failing to mention that fighting was continuing in and around the Chechen capital Grozny. 'The further mission of the restoration of law, order and civil rights of the population goes into the competence of the Interior Ministry,' Yeltsin said. 'Conditions are being created and fixed for the transition from military confrontation to the restoration of peaceful life in the Chechen Republic, as a subject of the Russian Federation.

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Transition to the stage of civil construction and constitutional forms of government is starting.' The Russian president said, 'Tasks of first priority which are to be solved by the government of Russia at this stage comprise the restoration of the infrastructure of the vital needs of the population and protection of human rights in full measure. The government will take every measure in order to eliminate the consequences of the economic devastation and to provide the population with everything needed for a normal life. Yeltsin's statement concluded: 'On this day, which gives us hope that peace will be restored, I bow my head before the memory of the soldiers killed in this conflict, before the losses suffered by the peaceful population. I express condolences to their relatives and close friends. Let the tragedy suffered by Russia, by Russian and Chechen peoples serve as a lesson for peoples and politicians.'

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