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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Russia bars ABC over interview
Shamil Basayev in 1999. File photo
Russia has offered a $10m reward for the warlord's capture
Russia says it will not renew the accreditation of journalists working for the US television network ABC.

The decision follows ABC's interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the 2004 raid on a school in Beslan.

The Russian foreign ministry said last Thursday's broadcast was "abetting the propaganda of terrorism".

An ABC spokeswoman said she did not believe the network regretted the decision to broadcast the interview.

Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that it would not be renewing accreditations that allow ABC staff to work in Russia once they expire.

It added that further contacts between ABC and Russia's official organisations were "undesirable".

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov declared the network "persona non grata" within his ministry on Sunday.

An ABC spokeswoman in New York, Emily Lenzner, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying: "I don't think we regret having aired the interview."

She also said that, although the scope of the ban was not clear, "I don't think this is going to keep us from reporting in Russia".

Western 'hypocrisy'

The BBC's Russian analyst Steven Eke says the authorities are equally angered that the ABC interview was conducted by Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky.

Mr Babitsky, a correspondent for the US-funded Radio Liberty who has covered Chechen themes for many years, is seen by Russian officials as a sympathiser to those they consider terrorists.

CLAIMED BY SHAMIL BASAYEV
September 2004: Gunmen seize school in Beslan, 320 deaths
August 2004: Suicide bombers destroy two airliners leaving Moscow, 89 deaths
August 2004: Suicide bomber kills 10 outside a Moscow metro station
October 2002: Gunmen seize Moscow theatre, 129 deaths

His apparent ease of access to Mr Basayev's hideout in Chechnya - at a time when Russia is offering $10m (6m) for the warlord's capture - makes a mockery of Russian security, our correspondent adds.

Under Russian law, it is illegal to broadcast the voices of those deemed by Russian courts to be a terrorist.

The authorities do not accept the argument that freedom of speech extends to individuals such as Mr Basayev, and have again accused Western nations of hypocrisy when it comes to fighting terrorism, our correspondent says.

In the interview, Mr Basayev said he was a "terrorist", but said Russians were "terrorists" too.

He admitted being behind the Beslan school siege last September, in which more than 320 people, around half of them children, were killed.

And he said he was plotting more attacks.




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