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Chechen leader says Russia to end counterterrorist operation

RIA Novosti

31/03/2009 18:41 MOSCOW, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee decided at its meeting on Tuesday to end the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya, the North Caucasus republic's president said.

The committee held a meeting in Moscow to discuss formally ending the campaign, and starting the withdrawal of around 20,000 Russian Interior Ministry troops from the republic.

Speaking after the meeting, Ramzan Kadyrov told reporters: "The situation in the Chechen republic was thoroughly discussed, as well as all possible consequences - economic, political and social - of ending the counterterrorism operation."

"Conference participants believe it is time the restrictions were lifted," he said.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), said earlier in the day that at least 67 militants have been killed and 233 detained in special operations in the North Caucasus since the start of this year.

Russia started its antiterrorism campaign in Chechnya in September 1999, deploying special police units, carrying out frequent police sweeps, and increasing security at key facilities.

Although the active phase of the antiterrorism campaign in the North Caucasus officially ended in 2001, periodic bombings and clashes between militants and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and nearby regions, particularly Daghestan and Ingushetia.

Kadyrov also said: "There are no objective reasons that would hinder the official recognition of the fact that the goals of the counterterrorist operation have been achieved, and tasks carried out."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev instructed Bortnikov on March 27 to consider ending the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya.


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