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Chechen Rebel Claims He Planted Radioactive Container in Moscow Park

November 24, 1995

MOSCOW (AP) _ A team of specialists reportedly retrieved a container of an apparently radioactive material from a Moscow park Thursday, and a TV network said it had been planted by Chechen rebels.

Russia’s independent NTV television showed its correspondent digging the container of radioactive cesium out from under a blanket of snow and said rebel commander Shamil Basayev _ Chechnya’s most notorious rebel fighter _ had recently revealed the location.

In an interview filmed this month, he told NTV the Kremlin should consider the cesium isotopes as his part toward ``disarmament.″

The Interfax news agency said a team of specialists retrieved the container Thursday night and was examining its contents. The report said it appeared to be highly radioactive.

It said the Federal Security Service, the Nuclear Power Ministry, the Emergency Situations Ministry and other federal agencies had people on the scene.

The radioactive isotope cesium 137 has a half-life of 37 years and is used in cancer research and radiation therapy, among other things.

Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Chechnya 11 months ago in a bid to end its three years of self-declared independence and oust its separatist president, Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Basayev brought the war home to Russia in June with a bloody hostage-taking in a southern Russian town. He freed his hostages in exchange for peace talks that led to an agreement for partial Russian withdrawal and Chechen disarmament. Neither side complied and the talks later broke down.

Basayev has threatened more terrorist attacks if the Kremlin does not withdraw its troops.

Meanwhile, the separatist republic’s Kremlin-appointed prime minister said Thursday that Russian soldiers in Chechnya will likely get to vote in the election for a new Chechen leader next month. But Doku Zavgayev, who is running for the leadership post, rejected suggestions Moscow might pour in troops just to pad the vote.

Rebels fighters have vowed to disrupt the election and news that Russian troops, whom many Chechens regard as invaders and occupiers, would be allowed to vote is likely to harden their opposition.

The Kremlin has said the election in Chechnya will take place on Dec. 17, the day people all over Russia vote for representatives to a new national parliament.

In addition to voting for a new Chechen leader, people in Chechnya will cast ballots for deputies to the Russian parliament.

Update hourly