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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Activists Call on Putin to Start Talks

GROZNY -- Seventeen prominent human rights activists called on President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to take up Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov's call for peace negotiations.

In an open letter, the rights activists called negotiations with what they said was the moderate branch of the rebels "practically the only way of stopping Chechnya's transformation into yet another front in the confrontation between radical Islam and Western civilization."

They said the Chechen war was turning into an "eternal conflict" and was in danger of igniting the whole North Caucasus region.

The signatories, including veteran activists Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Sergei Kovalyov and Father Gleb Yakunin, said that Maskhadov had proved his moderate credentials by publicly censuring Shamil Basayev and calling for him to be tried by an international tribunal.

Itar-Tass reported Wednesday that rebel attacks against Russian positions in the republic were continuing despite the declaration of a cease-fire.