Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

30,000 Turn Out in Support Of Maskhadov in Chechnya

GROZNY -- Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov rallied 30,000 supporters Tuesday, saying the warlords who seek to oust him from power have put the breakaway republic on the verge of anarchy.

"These people have become hostage to their own ambitions," Maskhadov said. He accused his foes of staging the recent kidnapping of General Major Gennady Shpigun in an attempt to provoke a new war with Russia.

Maskhadov's supporters stood for hours in a heavy rain at Freedom Square, in the center of the capital Grozny, chanting "Khalid, Khalid" - Maskhadov's Islamic name.

Pressured by his powerful opponents Maskhadov has promised to adopt a tougher stance toward Moscow. But that has hardly strengthened his position.

Maskhadov said Tuesday he had hung up on Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov during a recent telephone conversation in response to alleged threats of attacks over the abduction of the Interior Ministry general.

"They won't scare us with a threat of raids," Maskhadov told the rally. "We won't tolerate threats and blackmail."

Still, Maskhadov remains among the more moderate of Chechnya's prominent figures, and Russian politicians strongly prefer his government to that of unruly warlords.

Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who met with the governors of other Caucasus regions Tuesday, said they expressed "serious support for Maskhadov - the only legitimate figure, with whom [Russia] can and must work."

First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov said Tuesday the sides were preparing a meeting between Maskhadov and Primakov, which Chechnya had urged. He refused to specify the possible date and place of such talks, Interfax reported.

Russia has threatened to use force against Chechnya if Shpigun is not freed. Maskhadov has promised to free the general, who was kidnapped March 5, but warned Moscow against using force.