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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President, Nemtsov Bicker on Chechnya

President Vladimir Putin struck out at liberal politician Boris Nemtsov on Friday for proposing talks with Chechen rebel leaders to end the war.

Putin, who repeatedly has refused to negotiate with the rebels, at first seemed to soften his position by saying "talks are always better than actions involving the use of force and we are ready for contacts with anyone."

But he ruled out any compromise with the rebels and imposed strict conditions for agreeing to talks.

The rebels must lay down their arms, give up their bid for independence and hand over "especially odious bandits who are up to their elbows in the blood of the Russian people," Putin said in remarks shown on television.

These conditions would be unacceptable to the Chechen separatists.

Clearly annoyed at Nemtsov's call to begin talks with rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, Putin challenged him to get the Chechen rebels to accept these conditions or else give up his seat in the State Duma.

"If there are any deputies in the State Duma, including Boris Nemtsov, able to ensure fulfillment of these conditions in the foreseeable future, let's say in a month, let them do it. If they are not capable, they should stop messing around on the country's political stage and give up their mandate as deputy," Putin said after meeting with regional officials in the southern city of Kislovodsk.

Click here to read our special report on the Conflict in Chechnya.Nemtsov, who heads the parliamentary faction of the Union of Right Forces, said Putin's comments were an "emotional outburst" and he had no intention of resigning if he is unable to broker peace.

"President Putin did not appoint me and it is not his place to dismiss me," Nemtsov told an interviewer on TV6.

"It must be borne in mind that there are a variety of points of view in the country, points of view that will continue to be expressed, and the president has to get used to criticism."

Nemtsov, who recently traveled to Chechnya, said Putin should appoint a special representative for talks with the Chechens.

Reaction from Putin supporters Friday reinforced the idea that serious negotiations are still a remote possibility. "There can be no talks with Maskhadov," said Akhmad Kadyrov, the Moscow-appointed chief administrator for Chechnya, since neither Nemtsov nor Maskhadov are able to meet the conditions put forward by the president.

The presidential representative for the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev, also ruled out negotiations with Maskhadov. "The time for negotiations has passed," Interfax quoted Kazantsev as saying.

Maskhadov was elected Chechnya's president in a 1997 election that the Kremlin considered valid at the time, but he is now wanted on charges of leading an insurrection and Moscow has frequently rebuffed his calls for talks.

The normally unflappable Putin has often shown flashes of anger on occasions when the question of peace talks with the Chechen rebels was broached.

In Chechnya, an armored train carrying troops detonated a land mine placed under the tracks by rebels, and four soldiers were injured, an official in the Moscow-backed Chechen administration said Saturday.

The mine exploded Friday night as the train passed over a stretch of the North Caucasus railroad between Argun and Khankala, two towns east of Grozny, Interfax reported. The train was damaged but did not derail.

Five servicemen were killed and three were wounded in 16 separate rebel attacks on federal positions and checkpoints over the past 24 hours, the official said. Another soldier was killed and four were wounded Friday when their car hit a land mine in the town of Zerzhen-Yurt, the official said.

(Reuters, The Washington Post, AP)