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Moscow, 2 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russian news agencies report that the head of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov's personal guard has surrendered to Russian forces.

Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies quoted Ilya Shabalkin, spokesman for Russian troops in the North Caucasus, as saying Shaa Turlaev turned himself in the Nozhai-Yurt region, one of the areas of Chechnya where rebels are believed to be concentrated.

"The head of Maskhadov's personal guard, Shaa Turlaev, gave himself up. He has been part of Maskhadov's entourage for a long period of time, providing security, but, as previous leaders of the former Ichkeria [the name used by the
separatist leadership for Chechnya], he understood his desperate situation, and I think his decision was influenced by the fact that the Chechen people have made their final and irrevocable choice," Shabalkin said.

Shabalkin gave few details of the surrender. He said Turlaev may escape prosecution if it is established that he had not taken part in any serious crimes.

His surrender could not be immediately confirmed.
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