Chechen Leader Says Peace Talks 'Inevitable'
Chechen separatist President Aslan Maskhadov said in an interview published on Monday that eventual peace talks with Russia were "inevitable," but there was no one yet in Moscow able or willing to hold them.
In a rare interview with the liberal Novaya Gazeta weekly, Maskhadov said he was prepared for talks with no preconditions to determine "mutual relations" between Russia and Chechnya.
"Negotiations are possible. And inevitable. Wars end only through talks. And this war will end through them. I am convinced of that," Maskhadov said.
"I think the problem is that today there is nobody in the Kremlin with whom you can speak soberly, reasonably. Even about the interests of Russia and about what would benefit Russia first of all. Listen: there is nobody with whom to hold talks."
Maskhadov, a former Soviet army colonel, was the military commander of Chechen rebels during a 1994-96 war with Russian troops, but was later seen as a relative moderate by Moscow and became the preferred partner at lengthy peace talks.
He negotiated a 1996 peace deal that included a Russian troop withdrawal, and was elected Chechen president in 1997 with Russia's blessing. But Russia later accused him of failing to crack down on kidnapping gangs and radical Islamic warlords.
Since Russian troops returned to Chechnya in 1999, the Kremlin has repeatedly refused Maskhadov's overtures for talks. He is wanted in Moscow on treason charges -- MOSCOW (Reuters)
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