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Russia: EU Calls On Moscow To Meet With Chechen Officials

Moscow, 7 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - The European Union today called for talks between Russian and Chechen leaders while meeting with Russian officials about Moscow's ground and air offensive in Chechnya. Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen said the EU did not offer to mediate a resolution to the conflict. Earlier today, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said Moscow does not need outside mediation. The Kremlin has not responded to a request by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov for peace talks. Moscow today revived a Chechen government-in-exile which existed during the republic's 1994-96 conflict with Russia and was widely viewed by Chechens as Moscow's puppet. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said security services have orders to capture or kill the leaders of the Chechnya-based Islamic guerrillas. Russia blames Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and his Saudi-born protege Khattab for two invasions of Dagestan this summer and for terrorist bombings in Russia. Moscow last Friday followed up daily air strikes on Grozny by moving soldiers and armor into Chechnya. Troops have dug in along the Terek River, 25 kms north of the Chechen capital, Grozny.