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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Alerted as Basayev Taunts

Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov said Wednesday he would personally insist that President Boris Yeltsin cancel plans to visit Chechnya after top rebel commander Shamil Basayev threatened, if the president came, never to let him leave.

"We will take corresponding measures to give him a warm welcome. We will try to make sure he never leaves this place again," Basayev said in an interview aired late Tuesday night.

"I will personally insist that this visit does not take place in the near future until the situation changes for the better," Kulikov said at a press conference in Moscow when asked about the threat.

Yeltsin, as supreme commander in chief of the armed forces, had the right to make whatever decision he wished, Kulikov said. "But in view of the operational situation, I believe there are not the conditions for the safety of the president, nor are there political conditions for going to the Chechen Republic on a visit," he said.

Kulikov, who commanded the joint group of Russian forces in Chechnya last year before being made Interior Minister, made the comment when asked about the threats Basayev made during an interview filmed at a secret mountain location in Chechnya.

"Yeltsin's visit is the height of insolence," Basayev said. "It's a spit in the face of our people, using our pain, our blood for publicity purposes," Reuters reported. "I am in favor of continuing the war until we achieve victory," he said, adding he was against holding talks with Moscow.

Kulikov, describing Basayev as "an international terrorist," said: "This is a direct threat to the highest state official."

This is another instance that will show the population of Russia with whom we are dealing," he added.

Presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev said the threats would not deter Yeltsin or derail his peace initiative. "The president does not understand or accept the language of threats," he said Wednesday, Itar-Tass reported.

Sergei Filatov, chairman of Yeltsin's re-election campaign, depicted the president as a determined to go ahead with the visit despite "tough opposition" from his advisers. The entire presidential entourage was against him visiting Chechnya and were conducting "a very tough struggle to prevent him going to Chechnya," Filatov said, Interfax reported.

Itar-Tass quoted the head of the Moscow-backed government in Grozny, Doku Zavgayev as saying troops and police could guarantee Yeltsin's security and that the visit must take place.

Yeltsin has not disclosed the date of his trip but met with Oleg Lobov, his chief of his Security Council on Wednesday, to discuss the schedule for the trip, Interfax reported.

It will be Yeltsin's first visit to the war-torn territory since he ordered Russian troops in 17 months ago.

Rebels continued fierce attacks on Russian forces Wednesday, shelling positions 21 times in the last 24 hours, including 11 times in the capital Grozny, Interfax reported. Three Russian soldiers were shot dead by unknown gunmen in broad daylight in the busy market place in central Grozny.

Russian forces on Wednesday killed 25 separatist fighters in an air and artillery attack that destroyed a rebel ammunition depot in southern Chechnya, Defense Ministry Commander Vladimir Shamanov told Interfax. The report could not be independently confirmed.