Russia slams the media's take on rebel leader's death


Sun, Mar 13, 2005 - Page 6

Russia denounced the media's consternation at the killing of Chechnya's rebel chief Aslan Maskhadov as double standards, the Russian foreign ministry told reporters late Friday.

"In word, many urge an active fight against international terrorism, but in deed we are witness to a situation when the destruction of one of the most odious international terrorists prompts regrets," the ministry's spokesman said.

A 53-year-old moderate chief of the Chechen separatists, Maskhadov was reported killed by Russian forces on Tuesday in a village north of Chechnya's capital Grozny.

Russia had charged Maskhadov with involvement in terrorist acts such as the theater crisis in Moscow in 2002, when a group of Chechen commandos took hostage over 800 people, 130 of whom were killed in a resulting siege.

But Maskhadov had always denied any involvement in attacks that targeted civilians and was the only rebel chief who advocated a political solution to the 10-year-old standoff between the separatists and Moscow.

"There are videos that prove that new bloody terrorist acts were being prepared, under Maskhadov's leadership ... and [rebel warlord] Shamil Basayev openly said he acted under Maskhadov's orders," the spokesman said.

Basayev, 40, Russia's most wanted man, has claimed responsibility for some of the most horrific Chechen rebel attacks -- including the school hostage siege in Beslan last year that left more than 340 people, half of them children, dead.