Putin again outlines terms for Chechen peace talks

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told journalists in Moscow on 7 December that the Russian leadership is ready to "expand the political basis" for a settlement of the Chechen conflict on two conditions, Russian agencies reported. Those are that the estimated 352 hostages currently held on Chechen territory are released and that Grozny hands over all "international terrorists who have committed crimes in Russia." Putin denied that the warning to Grozny residents to leave the city by 11 December constitutes an ultimatum, arguing that it is intended to protect civilians and minimize troop casualties. He added that Chechen leaders, including President Aslan Maskhadov, have long since evacuated their dependents from the capital. Maskhadov's wife and children are currently in Russia under the protection of the Federal Security Service, Putin said. He did not disclose the exact location. LF

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