Chechen Gov't Deems Rebel Cease-Fire a Bluff

Chechnya's Kremlin-backed government on Thursday dismissed as a bluff a report on a Web site linked to separatist rebels that top leaders of the insurgency have called for a unilateral cease-fire in February.

Russian authorities announced new charges against the rebel leaders following Wednesday's report on the Kavkaz Tsentr Web site.

The report said that Aslan Maskhadov (search), who was president of Chechnya in its period of de-facto independence in the late 1990s, signed an order on Jan. 14 for all offensive actions to be halted in February in Chechnya and bordering areas "as a sign of a display of good will."

It cited an unnamed aide to Shamil Basayev (search), another Chechen warlord, as the source.

The report said that Basayev had issued an order that all rebels under his command halt offensive actions in Chechnya (search) and all of Russia until Feb. 22. Chechens mark Feb. 23 as a day of mourning in commemoration of the Stalin-era mass deportation of Chechens to Central Asia.

Maskhadov is believed to command a relatively small portion of Chechen separatist fighters, his influence eclipsed by the radical Basayev.

Russian prosecutors announced Thursday that they have formally charged both Maskhadov and Basayev with organizing a series of terrorist attacks.

The rebel-linked Web site published what it said was a text of Basayev's order, which included a ban on "all forms of diversionary actions," but it was not clear if that included terrorist-type attacks.

The Russian headquarters for military operations in Chechnya claimed the statements attributed to Basayev and Maskhadov were faked, saying that "all citations of leaders of the bandit underground are fictitious," and top officials in Chechnya's Kremlin-backed government swiftly dismissed the cease-fire calls.

"We have no grounds to take one of his [Maskhadov's] customary declarations about the cessation of terror as pure truth," the Interfax news agency quoted Chechen President Alu Alkhanov (search) as saying.

"The leadership of Chechnya is open to everyone who strives for peace and is prepared to make a contribution to the end of terror, but neither Maskhadov nor Basayev has ever demonstrated such qualities in a decade," Alkhanov said.

Taus Dzhabrailov, the chairman of the Chechen State Council, called the cease-fire call "a bluff" and "a provocation."

Chechnya has been shattered by two separatist conflicts over the past decade.