Russian Defence Minister believes Chechen settlement to be a long process

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov believes settlement of the situation in Chechnya will take quite long. He made this statement at a press conference in Washington.

"I would not say that this fight with the countrymen means agony, the Minister said speaking about the recent terrorist acts in Chechnya. "I would not be under such a delusion. Unless people do not have any other occupation, explosion and terrorist acts will continue and there will be new suicide bombers".

The recent terrorist acts in Chechnya show that all bandits under Shamil Basayev's command "are resorting to fighting against their own countrymen," the Russian Defence Minister stated.

When speaking about federal forces' work in Chechnya he said that the troops were receding into the background leaving only army task forces that conducted special operations. The rest of the operations are being carried out by the local police, the Minister pointed out.

"Another two notorious bandits" have recently been detained in Chechnya, he stated.

According to him, the local population takes the federal forces' operations "quite calmly".

The Minister stated that by autumn all paratroopers in Chechnya would be changed to contract ones and in 2004 motor rifle division 42 permanently located in Chechnya would also follow suit. "There will be no more conscripts in hot spots," he pointed out.

Sergey Ivanov also stressed that the US standpoint concerning the antiterrorist operation in Chechnya had currently improved. "It is even better than the one of many Europeans. They no longer consider them fighters for freedom," he pointed out.

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