The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Putin puts off trip after blast

Moscow, July 6 (Reuters): Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled a foreign trip due to begin today, a day after two alleged Chechen rebel suicide bombers killed more than a dozen people at a Moscow open-air rock festival.

News reports said 48 people were still being treated in five hospitals. Some were in serious condition.

No one claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack. If confirmed as the work of Chechens, it would be the most dramatic challenge to Russia’s strategy of limited autonomy for the province on its southern rim since rebels took an entire Moscow theatre hostage last October.

Putin had been due to fly to Uzbekistan and then Malaysia, where he was to sign a deal on supplying fighter aircraft. A Kremlin statement said that “in connection with the tragic consequences of the terrorist act in Moscow”, he had decided to cancel his trip to the two countries.

He had also been expected to visit ex-Soviet Azerbaijan on his way back, though the statement made no mention of this.

At least one official said the Kremlin was resolved to press on with its strategy in Chechnya by proceeding with a local presidential election in October whose date was announced the day before the bombing.

“It’s obvious that the goals of the explosions which terrorists carried out in Tushino were...the planned elections for the President and the parliament of the republic (of Chechnya),” Putin’s representative for human rights in Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, told Interfax news agency late yesterday.

But he said the “forces of international terrorism and their allies” would not succeed in disrupting the process.

Security officials say they have already established a link between the two women and Chechen rebel groups.

NTV television showed investigators in gloves picking through debris and collecting fragments including ball bearings from the 50-metre blast radius. Police lowered the death toll to 13.

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