Moscow, 22 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, said today that he "does not rule out" that Russia could launch air strikes against bases in Afghanistan, where Russia suspects Chechen guerrillas are being trained. Yastrzhembsky said that Russia could carry out "preventive strikes" if there was a serious threat to Russia's national interests or a threat to the interests of its allies.
Yastrzhembsky said Chechen representatives met Afghanistan's ruling Taliban officials and suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden about two weeks ago and agreed to help Chechen guerrillas.
"About a week ago, at Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan) which is, as you know, in Taliban-controlled country, a meeting took place between Osama bin Laden, Namangani -- the notorious Uzbek terrorist -- and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's aides. At the conclusion of the meeting, an agreement was signed to help Chechen fighters with people, weapons, and munitions," Yastrzhembsky said.
Chechen fighters said today they had seized the mountain-top village of Zhani-Vedeno, in southeastern Chechnya, killing more than 20 Russian soldiers in the process. Yastrzhembsky dismissed the claim and denied any Russian casualties. Neither claim could be independently confirmed.