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Explosion Shakes Chechnya's Capital, 5 Injured - 2003-06-20


A truck filled with explosives blew up outside a government building in the Chechen capital, Grozny, and officials say at least five people are wounded.

Russia's prosecutor general says Friday's blast, just meters away from a main government complex in Grozny, was likely carried out by suicide bombers, much like last month's attack near a Russian air base near Chechnya that killed 14 people.

Two other suicide bombings in a three-day period inside Chechnya last month killed at least 78 people and cast further doubt on Russian President Vladimir Putin's claims that life in the separatist republic is returning to normal.

No one has claimed responsibility for the latest blast, which left a crater six meters wide and four meters deep, and littered the street with metal and glass.

Hours earlier, President Putin said the only way out of the conflict is to follow the Kremlin's peace plan for Chechnya. In his annual Kremlin news conference, Mr. Putin also said Russia would welcome whomever the Chechen people chose as their president.

President Putin said the sooner legitimate power is formed in the breakaway republic, the better.

The Grozny explosion comes one day before Chechnya's temporary legislature is scheduled to meet for its first session. The head of the Moscow-backed Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, said the violence would not derail the peace process in Chechnya and that Saturday's first session of the state council would go ahead as planned.

Russian troops have waged two separate campaigns inside Chechnya that have cost tens-of-thousands of lives. With large-scale fighting more or less a thing of the past, government buildings have become preferred targets for separatist rebels.

The head of Russia's Internal Affairs ministry, Boris Gryzlof, says Friday's attack could have been much worse, if federal forces had not prevented the vehicle from getting any closer to the building by shooting at it from the road. Still, wide-scale damage was reported.