Putin Pushes Amnesty for Chechen Rebels
May 15, 2003
By YURI BAGROV
VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin asked lawmakers to offer amnesty to Chechen rebels who lay down their arms, pushing ahead with efforts to bring normalcy to the war-ravaged republic despite recent suicide attacks.
The announcement came a day after a woman with explosives strapped to her waist blew herself up in the midst of thousands of Muslim pilgrims, killing herself and at least 15 others in an apparent attempt on the life of Chechnya's Moscow-backed chief administrator.
Earlier this week, suicide bombers detonated a truck filled with explosives at the edge of a Chechen government compound, killing 59.
In a letter accompanying the bill, Putin said the amnesty offer was ``an act of humanism ... aimed first of all at creating additional conditions for the establishment of peaceful life in the Chechen Republic,'' the Kremlin press service said.
He said it would apply to those rebels who had laid down their weapons over the decade ending on Aug. 1 this year, but would not cover foreigners or Russian citizens who were guilty of murder, kidnapping, rape or other especially serious crimes.
Earlier this spring, Putin told Chechens in a televised address that their approval of a Kremlin-backed constitution would boost the chances of amnesty for former rebels. The constitution, which confirms that Chechnya is part of Russia but leaves open the question of how much autonomy it will have, was approved by a wide margin, according to official results.
Chechen administrator Akhmad Kadyrov was not hurt in Wednesday's attack, but two of his bodyguards were injured, said Maj. General Ruslan Avtayev, head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in Chechnya. The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that five of Kadyrov's bodyguards were killed in the attack in Iliskhan-Yurt, a village about 15 miles southeast of the capital, Grozny.
In all, 16 people were killed, including two who died in a hospital overnight, Avtayev said. The attack wounded 143 people, of whom 43 were in grave condition, he said.
Russian state television reported that 26 had been killed and TVS said the toll was 30. It was not possible to immediately reconcile the conflicting numbers.
Authorities identified the attacker as a 46-year-old widow whose husband allegedly was shot to death in 1999, said Chechen prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko. A second attacker died in the blast before being able to detonate her explosives, Russia's state-controlled Channel One said.
Interfax quoted a Chechen police spokeswoman, Lilya Tsingiyeva, as saying Thursday that the women may have been among 36 female suicide bombers trained by rebel leader Shamil Basayev.
The Kremlin has tried to portray its 3 1/2-year-old war in Chechnya as part of the international campaign against terror, and has accused foreign terrorist groups of funding attacks and training.
Russian forces pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 after rebels fought them to a standstill in a 20-month-long conflict. Troops returned in September 1999 after Chechnya-based rebels mounted incursions into neighboring Dagestan and after about 300 people died in apartment explosions that Russian officials blamed on the rebels.