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Russia: Putin Cancels Denmark Visit To Protest Chechnya Conference

Mosocow, 28 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry today announced that President Vladimir Putin has canceled his visit to Denmark following Copenhagen's decision to allow an international conference on Chechnya to be held in the Danish capital. The ministry said in a statement that the conference was organized and financed by what it called "Chechen terrorists, accomplices and patrons from Al-Qaeda" who were "behind" last week's hostage taking in a Moscow theater.

The statement said that the planned visit of the Russian president to Denmark cannot go ahead in the current circumstances.

But the Danish Foreign Ministry today demanded in a statement that Moscow provide proof to support its claim that "terrorists" were among the delegates at the conference

The decision follows an announcement from Denmark, the current EU president, that an EU-Russia summit scheduled to take place on 11-12 November in Copenhagen, will now take place in Brussels.

In other news, Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said today the deaths of 115 hostages in the rescue operation in Moscow on 26 October were "unjustifiable."

In all, 117 hostages are reported to have died but only two were shot, the rest died from an unidentified gas used by special forces when they stormed the theater. In an interview with Russian daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Zyuganov said it was unjustifiable that more than 100 people died and hundreds more suffered from serious physical and mental trauma. Zyuganov blamed Russian authorities for not taking measures to prevent such acts from happening.

Zyuganov said the problem is not restricted to a single terrorist act. He said all security structures have been shattered and his party believes the government is no longer efficient.

Zyuganov said there is no military solution to Chechnya and recommended paying attention to the economic situation there instead of forcing a military solution.