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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Russian diplomat deaths confirmed
Russian hostage in an internet video
The Russians were seized in Baghdad's Mansour district
Russia has confirmed that four of its diplomats taken hostage in Iraq are dead, a day after a group announced their deaths in an internet video.

The confirmation came after Russian experts checked the authenticity of the videotape released by the kidnappers.

The Russian foreign ministry expressed "deep pain" that the kidnapping had ended "in an irremediable way" despite efforts to win their release.

A group called the Mujahideen Shura Council released the hostage video.

The insurgent umbrella group is linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The video showed one man being beheaded and another shot dead, as well as the body of a third, but there was no sign of the fourth hostage.

The group had given Russia an ultimatum to withdraw from Chechnya and release Muslim prisoners from Russian jails - or the hostages would die. Chechen rebels said they had no links to the Iraqi group.

The men were seized in Baghdad on 3 June, and the kidnappers said the executions were in revenge for "torture, killing and displacement by the infidel Russian government" in Chechnya.

The Russian foreign ministry said the "terrorists" responsible were "inhuman, without honour, conscience or religion".

It urged the Iraqi authorities and the US-led coalition forces to find and punish the perpetrators.


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