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Kremlin denies end-date of Chechnya counter-terrorism operation

RIA Novosti

25/03/2009 20:38 MOSCOW, March 25 (RIA Novosti) - A Kremlin source rejected on Wednesday a report from the Chechen leadership that the counter-terrorism campaign in the republic would finish at the end of this month.

"This issue is being considered, but it's too early to talk of a deadline," the source told RIA Novosti.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told journalists earlier on Wednesday that the federal counter-terrorism operation in the Russian North Caucasus republic, which has lasted for nine years, would be officially completed in late March.

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

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 in fighting terrorists, but that now the priorities are to use the media, TV, radio and spiritual leaders to help those "lost" return home.

Kadyrov also called for those who "committed crimes against civilians during the counter-terrorism operation in the republic" to be brought to justice.

"During the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya, our people lost everything - family members, homes and property, but stood strong. I am sure that Russia will never let this tragedy happen again," he said.

Chechnya was devastated by two military campaigns, in 1994-1996 and 1999-2001, after which Moscow significantly scaled down its military presence in the republic.

Although the "active phase" of counter-terrorist operations are over in Chechnya, the republic and neighboring regions are still plagued by raids on federal troops and pro-Kremlin police and authorities.

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