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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Checking Iraq Claim

APLavrov welcoming Tuomioja for talks on EU-Russia ties Tuesday. Finland takes over the EU presidency next week.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that authorities were checking a claim by an al-Qaida-linked group that it was behind the abduction of four Russian diplomats in Iraq earlier this month.

The group, called the Mujahedin Shura Council, claimed Monday that it had kidnapped the four Russian diplomats and killed a fifth in Baghdad on June 3. Lavrov pledged to make every effort to secure their release.

"Since yesterday, we have been checking it through all the channels that we have established for the fast discovery and release of our colleagues in Baghdad," Lavrov said at a news conference after talks with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.

The group that claimed responsibility for the abduction condemned Russian actions in Chechnya and criticized its presence in Baghdad, saying in a web posting: "The Russian government sends its diplomats to Iraq to support the crusaders' project, led by America."

The Iraqi insurgent umbrella group demanded Moscow withdraw troops from Chechnya within 48 hours and release Islamic militants from its prisons or face "consequences."

Konstantin Kosachyov, the chairman of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, questioned the credibility of the statement Tuesday.

Chechnya's Moscow-backed president, Alu Alkhanov, dismissed the group's demand for Russian troops to withdraw from Chechnya as "absurd."

Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev demanded the release of the diplomats and denied any links to the Mujahedin Shura Council.

Lavrov urged the hostages' captors to free them immediately, reminding them of Russia's opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.