The media are circulating rumours of the Northern Alliance putting civilians to mass executions in Afghan areas liberated from the Taliban. The information has to be thoroughly checked, pointed out President Vladimir Putin as he and President George W. Bush were addressing a joint news conference to sum up today's bilateral negotiations. Ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks predominate Northern Alliance forces. It is hard to believe they can shoot unarmed captives, said President Putin. In fact, the sinister rumour was launched by the Taliban a few days ago, when the Alliance was still fighting to oust them from the country's north, he added. "For some reason, we no longer recall Taliban atrocities, world cultural heritage destroyed, and spread of terrorism," remarked Mr. Putin. As he pointed out, the Afghan public were greeting the Alliance as liberator, and women were putting off and burning their hated yashmaks.