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Chechen cease-fire holding, Russian source says
Updated: 2005-02-06 22:55

NAZRAN, Russia - Rebels in Chechnya have not attacked Russian forces in the three days since the rebels' fugitive leader ordered a cease-fire, a source in the mountainous region's pro-Moscow police said on Sunday.

An end to near-daily rebel attacks will come as an unwelcome surprise to Russian politicians who rebuff foreign suggestions of peace talks by saying separatist head Aslan Maskhadov is a spent force without control over the rebel ranks.

Maskhadov's cease-fire order, which he said was a mark of his willingness to enter peace talks, was published on rebel Web sites late on Wednesday.

Russian politicians immediately dismissed the order to rebel forces as meaningless even though it was the first peace bid for years to be backed by radical warlord Shamil Basayev, but the Chechen police source said it was being obeyed.

"In the last three days, there have been no attacks from the fighters," the source said.

The Russian military command in the North Caucasus backed up his comments -- although without specifics.

"Over the last 24 hours the situation on the territory of the Chechen Republic has been mainly calm," said its daily press-release.

Moscow has long refused to respond to Maskhadov's frequent requests for peace talks, saying that the former Soviet army officer has no power and, along with Basayev, is linked to international Islamic militant groups.

But analysts say momentum is building among Kremlin officials to find an end to the war, which has increasingly spread to other Muslim regions in southern Russia.

If the order for a month-long cease-fire is observed, Maskhadov will have demonstrated he is the only possible counterpart for talks on the rebel side.

The police source said guerrillas were continuing to fight in self-defense, and battles had occurred in the capital Grozny and the village of Starye Atagi when pro-Moscow forces had moved in to detain rebel fighters.

Tens of thousands of civilians and 20,000 Russian troops have been killed in a decade of war.

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