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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechens Call for End to War at Grozny Rally

GROZNY — Several thousand people, many of whose family members have disappeared or been killed in the war in Chechnya, gathered Saturday in the capital, Grozny, to demand that Russian authorities seek a negotiated end to the fighting.

Demonstrators said they wanted Russian officials to withdraw troops and negotiate with rebel President Aslan Maskhadov. Russian officials have said the only talks possible are discussions of a surrender, and say Maskhadov has little influence over other rebel commanders.

"I have come to this meeting with a hope that at least here, someone in power will hear me," said Kharipat Chupalayeva, 52.

Her two sons, 19 and 21 years old, disappeared four months ago when they went to a nearby market to buy building material.

"They were stopped by federal servicemen and I haven't heard from them since," she said.

Federal forces trying to stamp out resistance by independence fighters often detain Chechen men in sweeps aimed at searching out rebels. Others have been abducted by masked men whose identity isn't clear.

Some later turn up dead, and human rights groups have accused federal troops of killing them.

After three hours, police belonging to the Kremlin-appointed Chechen administration dispersed the demonstration. Police fired several shots into the air, detained several young men and seized a video camera from a woman taping the rally.

Also Saturday, about 50 people gathered at a farm 15 kilometers southwest of Grozny to protest the deaths of two local men, whom the protesters said were killed by Russian servicemen.

The two men, who died Friday, had no rebel connections, the protesters said.

Meanwhile, Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov expressed frustration Friday with Russian claims that the war is nearing an end, and criticized federal forces.

"We'll need from 50 to 100 years to revive Chechnya," he said on Chechen local television.

"Nevertheless, various groupings both Chechen and Russia form unnecessary organizations to embezzle state money," he said.