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Chechnya counterterrorist operation to officially end late March

RIA Novosti

25/03/2009 17:20 GROZNY, March 25 (RIA Novosti) - The long-running counterterrorist operation in the Russian North Caucasus republic of Chechnya will officially end March 30-31, the republic's president announced Wednesday.

"In essence, we long ago finished the struggle against the terrorists, however, there is an official document on conducting a counterterrorist operation in the republic. I think by the end of March around the 30-31 an official document will be signed ending it," Ramzan Kadyrov said.

He said the Chechen nation had been victorious in the fight against international terrorism.

Asked whether troops from the national anti-terrorist group could be involved in fighting terrorism in the Caucasus, Kadyrov said the republic had gained vast experience of fighting terrorists, but that the key thing was to use the media, TV, radio and spiritual leaders to help those "lost" return home.

Kadyrov also said citing the intelligent services that about 500 members of illegal armed units were currently active in the republic.

"According to our intelligent services, there are a total of 480 militants, but my information says there are 50-70 of them, no more than 100, and they won't be active in a month," he said.

Kadyrov said some former Chechen separatist leaders, including London-based Akhmed Zakayev, are ready to return to the republic.

"They are ready to discuss everything and come to us, sit with us and serve the Chechen people," he said, adding that he had spoken to Zakayev on the phone. "He welcomes the Russian Federation's policy in Chechnya, but can't say it openly, as he has been on the run for 10 years."

However, in a recent interview on the BBC Russian-language website, Zakayev said he would not return to Chechnya.


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