While appearing at a press conference at the Izvestiya media centre on Tuesday, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said that the main aim of the president's appeal to Chechen militants to lay down their arms had been achieved. According to him, this had been to establish contacts with both ordinary gunmen and Maskhadov's fighters. Yastrzhembsky reported that Maskhadov had several telephone conversations with the presidential envoy to the southern federal district. They, according to him, talked about whether or not a meeting was possible, and if so where. Moreover, Yastrzhembsky said that contacts had also been established with dozens of rank-and-file gunmen who wanted to know about the conditions for surrendering their arms. He stressed that the president's appeal could not be called an ultimatum. The head of state, the aide said, had given every member of the bandit formations, who did not want to be linked to terrorists, the chance to break free from international terrorism. "Maskhadov's people also saw this chance and took it. This has to be welcomed," Yastrzhembsky said. He did not rule out further negotiations with Maskhadov, saying that they could be conducted within the framework of clearly stated proposals made by the president - an end to armed resistance, a start to disarmament and a return to peaceful life.
Europe has recognised the need for negotiations with Russia to discuss the security system on the continent. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is going to Macedonia for meetings with colleagues within the OSCE