#5 - JRL 7172
Chechen rebels still receiving foreign money, weapons: Russian minister
May 7, 2003
Foreign-backed terrorists are still operating in the southern separatist republic of Chechnya and receiving money and weapons from other countries, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said Wednesday.
"Chechnya has not been freed from terrorism. Active combattants in the northern Caucasus are receiving money, weapons and ideological support from foreign countries," Gryzlov told medical officials in an interior ministry hospital, as reported by the Interfax news agency.
The admission came more than a month after a constitutional referendum in Chechnya which the Russian authorities had presented as proof that the situation in the breakaway republic was returning to normal and that the separatists had been defeated.
The May 23 poll massive approved a new constitution and paved the way for presidential and parliamentary elections within the coming year.
However sporadic attacks on Russian troops and Chechen pro-Russian police and officials continue on a regular basis, and four policemen were killed early Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported.
The men came under intensive automatic weapons fire shortly after midnight Tuesday on a road between Goyskoye and Komsomolskoye in the Urus-Martan region southwest of Grozny, the agency said, quoting a local official.
The assailants seized the men's weapons and identity papers. The rebels had appeared to have prior information of the policemen's itinerary, the official said.
Gryzlov stressed that "the organisers and the money for terrorist acts are abroad," citing evidence from telephone taps.
"There aren't just two or three foreign funds financing terrorism in Russia but a much greater number," he said.
The minister noted that Russia had suggested creating an international data bank on terrorist organisation at this week's meeting in Paris of justice and interior ministers of the Group of Eight industrialised nations.
Partipants at the meeting had "agreed that centres of international terrorism still exist in Chechnya and also in Georgia."
Russia has accused Georgia of allowing Chechen rebels to use its lawless Pankisi Gorge region, bordering Chechnya, as a rear base.
Chechen insurgents demanding independence but described by Russia as "terrorists" have been fighting a rearguard action in the republic's southern mountains since Russia sent in tens of thousands of troops in October 1999.
Russia has consistently sought to link the rebels with international terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, alleging that they have received support from other Muslim countries notably Saudi Arabia.