#1 - JRL 7180
Troops in Chechyna missed truck explosives - paper
By Samantha Shields
MOSCOW, May 13 (Reuters) - Russian troops in Chechnya had questioned the drivers of an explosives-laden truck that later detonated killing over 50 people but never checked inside their vehicle, local media reported on Tuesday.
Monday's suicide attack on a government complex was the bloodiest since a referendum in March, organised by the Kremlin, voted to keep the region within Russia. Opposition politicians said the attack underscored Moscow's weak control over the predominantly Muslim province.
"Policemen and military stopped the truck and checked the drivers' documents but they obviously didn't look in the back," Sultan Satuyev, Chechnya's Deputy Minister of International affairs was quoted as saying in the Kommersant daily.
By Tuesday morning, local officials said the death toll had risen to 56.
The blast in Znamenskoye, in the relatively peaceful north of the territory, came seven weeks after a constitutional referendum that anchored the Muslim region firmly in Russia.
A defiant President Vladimir Putin vowed not to let the attack derail the Kremlin's peace plan, but it is bound to cast a shadow over his annual "State of the Nation" address scheduled for Friday.
POLITICIANS CALL FOR TALKS WITH REBELS
Prominent Russian politician Boris Nemtsov, leader of the political faction "The Union of Right Forces," said in Nezavisimaya Gazeta that talks with rebels were essential.
"The stubbornness of the government is the path to victims, violence and suffering," he said.
Oleg Kulikov, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, said the situation in Chechnya had not changed since the referendum.
"The situation is not under the authorities' control. So far they have shown only weakness," he told the same paper.
Putin's defiant words on Monday suggested the Kremlin would press ahead with its plan to end 10 years of conflict between rebels and Russian forces. The next stage envisages elections in December for a regional president.
After the explosion, Putin ordered government officials to draft a treaty dividing political powers between Moscow and Grozny, a key part of the peace drive.
A top regional official blamed fighters loyal to fugitive rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov. But a Maskhadov spokesman said his men had played no part in the attack.
A low point for Putin came last October when Chechen rebels seized 700 hostages in a Moscow theatre. A total of 129 people and all the rebels died after Russian forces used a powerful knock-out gas to storm the building and end the siege.
Last December, a similar bomb attack on a regional administration headquarters in Grozny killed about 80 people.