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Russia: OSCE Mandate In Chechnya Expires

Moscow, 1 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The mandate for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) monitoring group in Chechnya has expired. The Russian government says it has no plans to renew the mandate, which expired at midnight. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said yesterday that "not all our partners proved willing to assess the situation correctly and acknowledge the new reality in Chechnya."

Yakovenko said that meant the Russian government could not agree to a new mandate for the OSCE mission and that as a result beginning today the OSCE mission in Chechnya will cease to exist.

The OSCE said, however, that new negotiations were possible this year and could result in a new mandate for the mission.

The move follows a suicide truck bombing of the Chechen government headquarters on 27 December, which killed 83 people.

Chechen separatist President Aslan Maskhadov urged the republic's separatists yesterday to refrain from further suicide attacks.

Meanwhile, the OSCE is set today to reopen its office in Minsk. The move came after Belarus and the democracy watchdog reached an agreement on Monday to allow the OSCE observers back into the country. The old OSCE mandate ended yesterday.

The office was effectively shut down in October, after frequent clashes over what the government claimed was OSCE support for the country's opposition.