MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin rejected calls to soften his Chechnya policy after last week’s school hostage siege, in which at least 335 people died, and said he would not talk to Chechen separatists.
Putin also ruled out holding a public inquiry into the storming of the Beslan school after a three-day stand-off with rebels demanding Chechnya’s independence ended in carnage. Half the victims were children.
“Why don’t you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?” Putin was quoted on Tuesday by Britain’s Guardian newspaper as saying.
“You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?” said Putin, who spoke to foreign journalists and academics late on Monday.
The authorities have been quick to blame Russia’s bloodiest hostage crisis of recent years on international terrorists, linking the siege at School No.1 in the North Ossetian town of Beslan with bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network.
But there have been pointed calls from countries like France for Russia to explain its get-tough policy in Chechnya, which human rights groups say has led to an escalation in atrocities by both Russian forces and rebels….
“Just imagine that people who shoot children in the back came to power anywhere on our planet. Just ask yourself that, and you will have no more questions about our policy in Chechnya,” Putin said.