Rebel Chechen Leader Snubs Talks Call, Says ‘Action not Words’
Rebel Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov rejected Tuesday a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin for rebels to lay down their weapons ahead of possible peace talks to resolve the Chechen conflict.
"Putin's statement just before the second anniversary of Russian operations in Chechnya highlights the failure of the Russian army and the inability of the Russian authorities to impose a solution," Maskhadov's press service told AFP by telephone.
Late Monday, Putin unexpectedly held out the prospect of peace talks by giving the rebels 72 hours to contact his representatives in the region in order to discuss laying down their weapons.
But for Maskhadov, Putin's statement broadcast on national television was simply designed "to profit from the tragic events in the United States so that the West does not criticise the barbarous actions of Russian troops" in Chechnya.
Chechnya's (rebel) political and military leadership "will reply with actions, not with words," he said.
Russia sent its troops into Chechnya on October 1, 1999 to put down a separatist insurgency it has been consistently described as a terror campaign.
Putin has previously dismissed all calls to negotiate an end to the conflict.
Maskhadov was officially elected Chechen president in January 1997 but was subsequently disavowed by Moscow -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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