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Kremlin Says Chechens Beheaded Russian Officers

From Times Wire Services

Chechen rebels who kidnapped two Russian colonels decapitated them and left their heads at a Russian base in Chechnya, the Kremlin said Friday.

The colonels had been seized several days ago in the Vedeno region, deep in the rugged southern mountains where the rebels are concentrated. The rebel Web site on Friday carried a proposal to trade them for a Russian officer accused of raping and killing a Chechen girl.

Russian news agencies quoted the office of the Kremlin’s main Chechnya spokesman, Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, as saying the remains of the two men had undergone checks for identification.

“The bandits had intended to portray to the world community the kidnapping of officers as a propaganda action--to show who was boss,” Interfax news agency quoted the office as saying.

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“It is almost certain these monsters had no intention of exchanging the officers for prisoners or of demanding a ransom.”

Public ORT television said the two men, Vladimir Barankin and Valery Zakharchenko, had completed their stint in Chechnya and were on their way to a wedding in Vedeno, the main town in one of two gorges in the Caucasus Mountains leading to southern Chechnya.

Russian control over the two passes is tenuous at best.

“The two officers had served for some time . . . in Vedeno and enjoyed good relations with many locals,” ORT said.

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The grisly report, which could not immediately be confirmed, came as Russian forces clamped tight security on the republic, fearing that rebels may launch attacks Sunday, which separatists regard as Chechnya’s independence day.

Troops blocked vehicles from entering or leaving Grozny, the shattered Chechen capital. The city’s streets, many gouged with deep trenches to block traffic, were empty.


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