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Russia: Putin Vows to Take 'Appropriate Measures' Against Terrorists

Moscow, 28 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin told ministers today the country will take "appropriate measures" against terrorists wherever they may be. Speaking two days after the bloody end of a hostage taking in Moscow by Chechen militants, Putin said Russia will never deal with terrorists or give in to blackmail. He said if anyone tried to use weapons, comparable to weapons of mass destruction, against Russia, then Russia would respond with "measures adequate to the threat" in all places where the terrorists themselves, the organizers or financial sponsors of terrorist acts are located.

Putin said he would give the military broader powers to deal with suspected terrorists.

An envoy for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov today said Maskhadov is ready for unconditional talks with the Russian government. The Russian government has previously dismissed negotiating with Maskhadov saying he does not control the rebels in Chechnya.

Meanwhile, Denmark has moved the upcoming European Union-Russia summit from Copenhagen to Brussels after protests from the Russian government in the wake of the hostage crisis in Moscow.

Russia threatened to boycott the EU meeting scheduled for 11 November and cancel President Putin's official visit to Denmark on the same date unless the Danish government prevented a Chechen congress from taking place in Copenhagen this week. That congress opened today.

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said the decision to move the EU-Russian summit was made by Denmark which currently holds the EU presidency. Filori said the EU considers the summit with Russia "essential."

In Copenhagen, the deputy prime minister of the unrecognized Chechen government of Aslan Maskhadov called for unconditional talks between the Chechen leader and Russian government officials. Akhmed Zakaev said Maskhadov had nothing to do with the hostage-taking incident in Moscow last week and said talks with Russian officials would prove that.

Also, Russian troops said today they killed 30 separatist fighters in Chechnya in recent ground and air operations there.

Interfax quoted an official from Russian forces headquarters in Chechnya as saying "up to 30 rebels have been killed during a special operation near Tsentoroi," a village east of Grozny. He did not provide additional details.

Russia is observing a national day of mourning today for the at least 117 hostages who died in the Chechen hostage-taking crisis at a Moscow theater. The crisis ended on 26 October when special forces used an unidentified gas to knock out the gunmen and free the hostages. Almost all of the hostages who died succumbed to gas poisoning.