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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Chief Off To U.S.

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov departed for the United States on a five-day private visit Tuesday, though the aims of the trip were unclear.

A spokeswoman at the U.S. State Department confirmed that a meeting was planned between Maskhadov and Steven Sestanovich, an ambassador at large and special adviser on the problems of newly independent states. The spokeswoman called Maskhadov's visit "unofficial."

It was originally reported that Maskhadov was visiting the United States at the invitation of the Carnegie Foundation.

But Tracy Dolan, assistant director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Tuesday that Maskhadov was invited for an unofficial visit by a Turkish businessman, Berkam Yasar.

Dolan said, however, that Maskhadov would speak at a seminar at the Carnegie Foundation's Washington headquarters Thursday afternoon. Also in attendance will be representatives of the Russian Embassy in Washington, political analysts and Russian journalists.

Dolan said the Carnegie Foundation's agreement to host Maskhadov was in no way an endorsement of Chechnya's claims of independence from Russia.

"We don't take institutional positions on policy questions," she said. "[Carnegie] provides a forum for speakers to present their views on all disputed issues."

Maskhadov departed for the United States from Turkey, where he was vacationing in Antalya and conducting informal business in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Maskhadov, 46, won a landslide election victory to become president of war-ravaged Chechnya in January, but his political fortunes have since waned.

He has so far failed to win any official foreign recognition of the breakaway republic's independence. The Russian government, which rejects Chechnya's claims of independence, said it was not consulted about Maskhadov's trip to the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov said Tuesday that the American side had explained to the Foreign Ministry that they consider Maskhadov's visit to be in a private capacity.