#4 - JRL 7205
Chechen rebels flag new campaign against Russia
By Oliver Bullough
MOSCOW, June 1 (Reuters) - Chechnya's fugitive separatist president said on Sunday his guerrilla forces would mount a summer campaign against Russian troops as the region's pro-Moscow leader put a price on his head. In written remarks obtained by Reuters, president Aslan Maskhadov, forced into hiding during Russia's second post-Soviet campaign, said his forces had a range of operations planned, and listed a series of successful actions against troops.
"For this summer and autumn we have a lot prepared," he said. "I do not think that the enemy will be able to remain, because the guerrillas are very determined."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to negotiate with Maskhadov and has instead proposed a plan to end nearly a decade of conflict by extending autonomy to Chechnya.
Russian forces in the area remain subject to constant attacks, with rebels killing two Russian servicemen on Saturday.
Maskhadov was elected president in 1997, during Chechnya's brief period of de facto independence before Moscow sent troops pouring back into the region in 1999. He denounces more radical separatists who staged two suicide bombings last month which killed more than 70 people.
Both Maskhadov and extreme Islamist rebel Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings, dismiss the Kremlin peace plan, based on a March referendum showing an overwhelming majority in favour of Chechnya staying in Russia.
A spokesman for pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov said on Sunday a huge reward would be offered to anyone who provided information leading to the arrest of Maskhadov, who is believed to be on the run inside the mainly Muslim province.
"He promised that whoever revealed (his) location...would get a reward sufficient for his children and his grandchildren as well," the spokesman told Interfax news agency.
Rights groups accuse the Russian forces in Chechnya of widespread abuses, and called on EU leaders, attending a summit in Russia at the weekend, to condemn Moscow.
But the EU was careful not to press Putin, urging him to search for a political settlement, and vaguely condemning rights violations and "terrorist acts."
Maskhadov said Putin's peace proposals were aimed at winning public favour before parliamentary elections in December and his own bid next year to seek a second term.
"I am not going to appeal to the Russian leadership, because it is senseless...Their heads are full of only one thing: the forthcoming elections," he said.
He condemned May's suicide bombings and confirmed that the separatists were split on the morality of such tactics.
"The Chechen president does not lead people who blow up themselves and others," he said.
Basayev says the rebels have no other choice.