Ukrainian Foreign Ministry chief spokesman Yuri Serhiev rejected as "slander" the allegations by senior Russian officials that Ukrainian "mercenaries" are fighting against Russian forces in Chechnya. In the latest case, Russia’s first deputy internal affairs minister and commander of internal troops, Col. General Anatoly Shkirko, charged that "a gang of western Ukrainian mercenaries is committing atrocities" in Chechnya. Serhiev commented that "Russian official structures, including the Federal Security Service," spread such allegations to manipulate public opinion. He said that Kiev has repeatedly challenged Moscow to substantiate the charges but the Russian side was never able to do so. (Interfax-Ukraine, August 19)
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