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Russia Says Its Anti-Terrorism War Has No Boundaries - 2002-11-05

Russia's defense minister said his country has every right to make preventive strikes against other countries in its fight against terrorism. The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, said Chechen rebels have declared war on Russia and Russia is fighting a battle without borders or fronts.

Mr. Ivanov was referring to the Moscow theater crisis last month, when Chechen rebels took hundreds of people hostage in central Moscow. His comments were published Tuesday in the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

After the hostage incident, Russia announced it is drawing up new plans to fight terrorism and protect its national security. In the interview, Mr. Ivanov said Russia reserves the right to make pre-emptive military strikes outside its borders in the fight against terrorism.

In the past, Russia warned it might use force to wipe out Chechen rebels believed to be hiding in the Pankisi Gorge section of Georgia. This has strained relations with Georgia, which does not want Russia to send troops into its territory.

In the interview, Mr. Ivanov also said Russia would focus on making its million-man army professional and mobile in order to fight terrorism. He added that Russia needs to modernize its military in order to be effective.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said they have given the Danish government information that they said proves senior Chechen official Akhmed Zakayev was involved in several terrorist attacks during the 1990s.

Mr. Akayev was arrested last month in Copenhagen after the hostage taking incident. Russia has been seeking his extradition.