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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Basayev Surfaces to Say He's Alive

APA screen grab from the Basayev video posted Tuesday on the Kavkaz Center web site.
Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, whose death has been the subject of persistent reports in recent days, demonstrated his good health and high spirits Tuesday by posting a video on a rebel web site that shows him stabbing his artificial leg with a knife.

"I am alive and my kidneys are in good shape," Basayev said in the four-minute video, a reference to statements by Kremlin-backed Chechen President Alu Alkhanov that he could have died of kidney disease or complications from gangrene in his right leg, which Basayev lost when crossing a minefield laid by federal troops in 2000.

Basayev, clad in a thick camouflage jacket and ski cap, then twice stuck a knife in his artificial leg above the knee. "My leg is also fine -- try to do this if you can."

In the video, posted on the Kavkaz Center web site early Tuesday, he repeated his pledge to respect a one-month truce declared by rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov last week. Basayev, Russia's most wanted man, has taken responsibility for a series of recent terrorist attacks, including the raid on a Beslan school in September.

On Monday, Maskhadov upped the ante by calling on President Vladimir Putin to begin peace talks and asking the international community to step in.

Pro-Moscow Chechen leaders responded Tuesday by calling on Maskhadov to surrender.

"No talks are possible with those who have been involved in bloody criminal acts against society. The only real salvation for such individuals can only be surrender and the confession of their guilt," Alkhanov said in a statement released by his press service.

"If Maskhadov really wants peace in the republic, he should make at least one real move to help reach it -- lay down his arms and surrender, which he can do tomorrow," Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov was quoted as saying in the same statement.

Meanwhile, exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky threw fuel on the propaganda fire between the rebels and Moscow by saying the rebels may possess a nuclear weapon.

Berezovsky said that about three years ago, a Chechen representative identified as Zakhar had offered to sell him a portable nuclear device and deliver it to any part of Russia or Europe, The Associated Press reported.

Berezovsky, whose claim first appeared in an interview published Tuesday in Komsomolskaya Pravda, said he initially turned to U.S. officials with information on the offer. In the fall of 2004, he contacted Nikolai Patrushev, director of the Federal Security Service, Berezovsky said in the newspaper interview.

The device, he said, was not fully equipped but it had a nuclear charge.

FSB spokesman Alexander Murashov, reached by telephone Tuesday, declined to comment.

Berezovsky told the AP that the offer had come not from rebels linked to Maskhadov but from "those involved in business activities, so to speak." The device could have changed hands since then, though, he said.

The Foreign Ministry said the Chechen rebels are not believed to have such a nuclear device and accused Berezovsky of trying to "sow an atmosphere of vulnerability and nervousness in Russia."

The Federal Atomic Energy Agency said that not enough fissile materials had been registered as stolen in Russia or elsewhere in the world to make a nuclear bomb, RIA-Novosti reported.

Vladimir Vasilyev, chairman of the State Duma Security Community, accused Berezovsky, a sharp critic of Putin's government, of playing on the side of the rebels and adding to the "informational pressure" created by the rebel leadership's call for peace talks, Interfax reported.