December 20, 2008 / 4:07 PM / 11 years ago

Palestinian leader Abbas to visit Russia's Chechnya

GROZNY, Russia, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive in Grozny late on Saturday, a rare visit by a foreign head of state to the capital of the troubled Russian region.

Abbas will meet Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian media reported. A Kremlin spokesman in Moscow said Abbas would stay in Russia until Dec. 22, when he was due to hold talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The spokesman added that Abbas’ stopover in Grozny was not part of his official visit to Russia.

Palestinian, Russian and Chechnya’s green, white and red flags were hung up in Grozny’s snow-covered streets to greet the Palestinian leader, who spent Friday bidding farewell to outgoing U.S. President George Bush in Washington.

Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel who declares loyalty to the Kremlin, met with Abbas during the haj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, Russian news agencies said.

Chechnya, on Russia’s southern border, is now relatively peaceful after two wars fought by separatist rebels and Islamist militants against Moscow’s rule starting in 1994.

Some analysts say that in return for quelling rebel attacks the Kremlin has let Kadyrov implement some Islamic rules, such as telling women to don headscarves and long skirts if working in government offices, and imposing periodic alcohol bans.

He is seen by Chechens as dedicated to the revival of the Muslim religion and has met several influential Muslim leaders from Arab states. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Jon Boyle)



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