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Chechnya: Maskhadov Calls For Political Dialogue

Moscow, 11 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Chechnya's separatist President Aslan Maskhadov said today he is prepared to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for peace talks, even though Putin has accused him of committing genocide against non-Chechens. Maskhadov said in a statement today that he is ready to conduct an "unconditional political dialogue" with the Russian leadership in order to bring an end to the war in Chechnya.

Putin yesterday called Maskhadov a murderer and a war criminal. He also has accused Maskhadov of complicity in last month's hostage-taking crisis at a Moscow theater and said he will not negotiate with the Chechen leader.

Putin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii repeated the allegations in Brussels today at the opening of an EU-Russia summit: "The numerous telephone contacts between the [hostage takers at the Moscow theater] and Maskhadov's people, the interviews that [hostage-taking group leader Movsar] Baraev gave to journalists at the theater center, showed that [Chechen rebel commander Shamil] Basaev and Maskhadov were behind this act of terror. Mr. Maskhadov has himself barred his way to any political process."

In Chechnya, a Russian helicopter made an emergency landing today after what the Kremlin said was a technical problem. No casualties were reported. Fighting was reported overnight between Chechen separatists and Russian troops near the village of Kharsenoi, about 50 kilometers southwest of the capital, Grozny.

For more on the issue of negotiations on Chechnya, please see Chechnya: Activists Say West Must Pressure Moscow To Start Peace Talks.