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    PRESIDENT PUTIN SPEAKS ABOUT ETHNIC PURGES IN REGARD TO SERBS IN KOSOVO

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    MOSCOW, March 20, 2004. (RIA Novosti). Russian President Vladimir Putin considers the developments in Kosovo an ethnic purge in regard to Serbs.

    "Russia cannot watch indifferently what is going on there. It is, as it has also been admitted by our Western colleagues, nothing but an ethnic purge. An adequate tough response to it is required, in this case, to defend the Serbs," the Russian President said at a regular Saturday meeting in the Kremlin.

    "I ask Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to clearly formulate Russia's position on this problem," Putin stressed.

    In the near future, he said, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu is to pay a planned visit to Serbia and Montenegro.

    "Of late, hard events have been going on there, bringing suffering to many people," the President said. In this connection Putin asked Shoigu to inform about actions that may be taken to help the Serb refugees.

    Shoigu replied that the planned trip to Serbia and Montenegro is associated with Russia's economic cooperation with that country.

    "At present the situation has worsened seriously. Refugees have fled already 20 populated areas in Serbia. So, urgent actions must be taken to help those people," Shoigu said.

    Reference here, he explained, to aid by providing tent camps, medicines, and foodstuffs. Most probably a field hospital is to be opened there, the Emergencies Minister said.

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