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UN: War Crimes Prosecutor Meets Chechen Separatists

The Hague, 8 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- An official at the UN war crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) said today that chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte met with three representatives of the Chechen separatist leadership. Florence Hartmann said the meeting, which she described as a "courtesy visit," took place yesterday at The Hague. The Chechen delegation included Ahmed Zakaev, a close aide to separatist President Aslan Maskhadov.

Hartmann said the delegation and Del Ponte discussed the future of international justice and the creation of the International Criminal Court. Zakaev also told AFP that the Chechen leadership wants human rights abuses committed by Russian troops tried by an international court.

A senior member of the Russian State Duma, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitri Rogozin, condemned the meeting and accused Del Ponte of offering "moral support" to international terrorism. Russian politicians generally refer to Chechen separatists as "terrorists."

In related news, an RFE/RL correspondent reports that two civilians were killed today during a "mop-up" operation conducted by Russian troops in the village of Chiri-Yurt. Russian soldiers also arrested 30 residents in Starye Atagi and Novye Atagi.

Earlier today, a remote-control bomb exploded in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, southeast of Grozny, killing an elderly woman and wounding two other civilians.

Russian news agencies say the explosion occurred as a military vehicle carrying Russian soldiers was passing by. There were no casualties among the soldiers. A woman and her three-year-old child were severely injured in the blast.