Defense minister Ivanov rules out pardon for Chechen rebel leader Maskhadov

Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov may not be pardoned, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Sunday during a stopover in the Norwegian capital, en route to the United States. According to the Russian minister, Maskhadov's influence in Chechnya has now been reduced to naught.

Shamil Basayev, another notorious leader of the Chechen separatists, is reported to be hiding in Russia. Locating him is a matter of time, the minister said.

Chechen rebel leaders are too weak to mount any large-scale combat operation in Chechnya these days, Mr. Ivanov assured his audience. The minister claims that Basayev's role has now been confined to the arrangement of training for suicide bombers and masterminding of terrorist acts outside the Chechen republic.

According to Mr. Ivanov, not a single Russian serviceperson was killed or wounded in Chechnya last week.

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