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Chechen Separatists Release 8 Children in Moscow - 2002-10-25

Eight children have been released from a theater in Moscow where Chechen rebels have been holding hundreds of people hostage since Wednesday evening. But there is still no sign that all the foreigners in the building will be released as was earlier reported.

Russian television showed pictures of the young children walking out of the theater. They were wearing winter coats and appeared to be in good condition.

Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service talked to Russia's RTR television about the release.

Mr. Ignatchenko said he could not give out details of why the children were released and said authorities were trying to negotiate to free more children.

Russian media reported that the children would immediately receive counseling after their long ordeal.

There had been reports early Friday morning that the hostage-takers would release all of the estimated 75 foreigners in the building. But so far, there has been no such development.

Chechen rebels stormed the theater in Moscow Wednesday evening, firing weapons into the air and demanding independence for the breakaway Russian region of Chechnya. Russian troops and Chechen rebels have been fighting for control of Chechnya for the past three years.

There is no official count of how many people are still inside the theater but estimates range from 500 to 800. One woman has died after being shot by the Chechen separatists on the first day of the crisis. It was not known when she actually died but her body was taken out of the theater on Thursday.

The hostage crisis has riveted the attention of people around the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that ensuring the safety of the hostages is of the utmost importance.

In order to manage the crisis, the Russian leader cancelled a trip he was scheduled to make this weekend to Mexico for a summit with President Bush and the annual Asia-Pacific summit.