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Russia: Russian Negotiators to fly to Chechnya this Weekend

Grozny, August 2 (RFE/RL) -- Top Russian negotiators said today they will fly to Grozny this weekend to try to restart collapsed peace talks with Chechen separatists.

Sergei Stepashin, the secretary of the government commission on the settlement of the Chechen conflict, said at a news conference in Moscow today that he told mediators of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) he is ready to meet separatist leaders.

A Russian delegation, including Stepashin and Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, will arrive in Grozny tomorrow. However, no time and place has been set for a meeting.

At today's news conference, Mikhailov said there would be little room for compromise and blamed the Chechens for the breakdown in talks. The two sides signed a wide-reaching peace accord in June, just before the Russian presidential elections, but fighting in southern Chechnya has intensified after the election last month.

The Russian military command in Chechnya said today that Russian forces continue to shell Chechen separatists' positions in the southern mountains near the village of Shatoi. Military operations aimed at finding and destroying Chechen fighters' bases are reported also in the Vedeno area, in southeastern Chechnya.

Meanwhile the press-secretary of the Russian State commission for the settlement of the conflict in Chechnya, Sergei Slipchenko, says Russian authorities do not expect a future re-appearance of former Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Dudayev was reportedly killed in a Russian rocket attack last April, but rumors have circulated recently that he is alive and ready to retake control of the separatists.

The Head of Russia's federal security service (FSB), Nikolai Kovalyov, said yesterday the security service had been warned of the possible appearence of "Dudayev doubles."

The press-secretary of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, Ruslan Martagov, told Tass in Grozny today that pro-Moscow authorities in the republic do not have any information on Dudayev's possible re-surfacing.

And Tass also quoted Chechen separatist information minister Movladi Udugov as saying that the Chechen separatist leadership "said in April that Dudayev was dead and since then no other official comment on the issue was made and is not expected."