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Uzbekistan must not become second Afghanistan - Putin

MOSCOW, January 31 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin urged a cautious approach Tuesday to problems in Uzbekistan, warning against reacting in a way that could turn the Central Asian country into a "second Afghanistan."

On the controversial subject of an uprising in Uzbekistan in May in which hundreds of people died, the president, speaking at a Kremlin press conference, said: "We know what happened in Andijan. We know who the people were, where, and in what numbers, that trained those who instigated the situation in Uzbekistan, and in particular in this city. This is not to deny that Uzbekistan has a lot of problems, but it rules out an approach through which we could allow ourselves to agitate the situation in this country."

"We do not need a second Afghanistan in Central Asia. We will act very carefully. We do not need a revolution there. We need evolution."

In answer to a question on Chechnya in Russia's North Caucasus, the president said that the republic had been fully returned to Russia's constitutional sphere.

"The formation of organs of executive power in the Chechen republic has been finally concluded," Putin said, adding that this was one of the main political results of 2005.

"There is no shortage of tasks [in Chechnya] - both economic and social. There are tasks to form organs of central power, but the issue of forming organs of state power has been concluded," he said.

Putin also said anti-terrorist operations in Chechnya were almost fully concluded.

"I think that we are fully able to speak of the end of counter-terrorist operations given the understanding that law enforcement agencies in Chechnya are in practice taking upon themselves the main responsibility for law and order."

"There are now certain regions of the North Caucasus where the situation is more worrying than in Chechnya. It must be said that law enforcement authorities in Chechnya are more and more firmly controlling the situation, and taking on more responsibility."

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