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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