Displaying defused explosives and playing recordings of intercepted telephone conversations, Russian officials tried to remind the world of the threat posed by the Chechen guerrillas, who took more than 800 people hostage. They also sought to link the guerrillas to Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen president turned rebel leader.
Officials said they had arrested a Chechen militant, Sergei Krym- Gerei, with 18 pounds of deadly mercury that could be used in a terrorist attack. Investigators in Chechnya said they had determined that weapons and explosives were smuggled to Moscow on a shuttle bus from Grozny, the Chechen capital, by wrapping them in plastic and pouring vinegar over the packages to deceive police dogs. A firearms dealer, Akhyad Ichiyev, was arrested on allegations of providing the weapons. And Russian forces surrounded Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia, the Russian republic adjacent to Chechnya, in a search for other suspects, according to reports from the region.
It was during that conversation that the involvement of [Maskhadov] and guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev was discussed. According to the Russian translation of the Chechen-language conversation, the men said the operation was being conducted "with the recognition of Shamil," and that "when the operation was prepared, Aslan and Shamil were present. . . . Shamil was following Aslan's directions."
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