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Itar Tass Says Dudayev Dead!

Grozny, April 23 (RFE/RL) - The Itar Tass news agency quotes a spokesman for separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev as saying Dudayev has been killed in a missile attack in Southwestern Chechnya.

Dudayev's personal secretary, Saipudi Khasanov, has denied the report. Interfax quotes Khasanov somewhere in southern Chechnya as saying that Dudayev is alive. Earlier Khozh Akhmed Yarikhanov, a senior separatist spokesman, told Itar Tass that there was no doubt that Dudayev had been killed.

Yarikhanov, who led a separatist delegation in negotiations with Moscow last year, said Dudayev died overnight Sunday in a shelling attack near the village of Gekhi-Chu, about 30 kilometres southwest of the capital Grozny.

Russia's nationalities and defense ministers could not immediately confirm the report.