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Russia: Chechen President Lashes Out Against North Ossetians

Grozny, 21 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov yesterday accused leaders in the neighboring Russian region of North Ossetia of inducing tensions in the North Caucasus that could lead to another regional war.

Speaking at a news conference in the Chechen capital Grozny, Maskhadov accused the North Ossetians of trying to drag Chechnya and Ingushetia into a military conflict that could "cost the lives of thousands." He hinted that dark forces were behind the effort and he chastized North Ossetia for siding with Moscow during the Kremlin's military intervention in Chechnya.

Earlier yesterday, some 2,000 armed Chechen fighters gathered at Grozny's Dynamo sports stadium, warning they are ready to take action to free several comrades reportedly held captive in North Ossetia.

Tensions have been running high in Russia's restive Caucasus region, home to the rebel republic of Chechnya as well as other territories with histories of conflict with Russia and among themselves.