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Russia: Putin Calls Chechnya Internal Issue

Oslo, 12 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today said the Chechen conflict could be solved only by the Russian and Chechen people alone. Speaking in Oslo today after meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin said that Chechnya presents "an internal Russian problem."

Yesterday, Putin said in Brussels in response to a question from a French journalist that Chechen separatists are terrorists who believe that all non-Muslims deserve to die: "I think you [a French journalist] are from a country that is, in fact, an ally of the United States of America. You are in danger. They speak about the necessity of killing all kafirs [a nonbeliever in Allah], all non-Muslims -- all cross bearers, as they call them. If you are a Christian, you are in danger. But if you reject your religion and become an atheist, you are also slated for liquidation, according to their way of thinking and their rules. You are in danger. If you decide to become a Muslim, even this will not save you because they consider traditional Islam to be hostile to their aims. Even in this case, you are in danger. If you want to become a complete Islamic radical and are ready to undergo circumcision, then I invite you to Moscow. We are a multidenominational country. We have specialists in this question [circumcision]. I will recommend that they carry out the operation in such a way so that afterwards, nothing else will grow."

Schroeder said that he had expressed sympathy and solidarity with the Russian people after last month's hostage crisis in Moscow.

After meeting with Schroeder, Putin is due to have talks with Norwegian leaders including Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.