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    MOSCOW DOES ITS BEST TO RETURN RUSSIANS DETAINED IN QATAR

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    MOSCOW, April 6, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Moscow has stated that it is doing its best to release the two Russian citizens detained in Qatar. RIA Novosti learnt this on Tuesday from spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry Mikhail Troyansky commenting on the Qatari authorities' statement that the Russians had already been put on trial.

    Three Russian citizens were arrested in Doha, capital of Qatar, in the early hours of February 19. One of them, a diplomat of the Russian embassy, was later released and expelled from Qatar.

    The arrested Russians are accused of murdering Zelimkhan Yandarbieyv, a leader of Chechen separatists, who lived in Qatar in the past years. Yandarbiyev died on February 13 when his car exploded near a mosque in Doha.

    According to the Qatari authorities, the two Russians had arrived from Moscow especially to place the bomb under Yandarbiyev's car. The third one, the diplomat, had allegedly rented a car to drive them around Qatar, and this allegedly helped the local police establish the murderers. According to the investigators, a policeman had seen them when they were placing the bomb under Yandarbiyev's car.

    Russia has repeatedly stated that its citizens were not involved in the murder of Yandarbiyev, and insists on their release. The claims of the Qatari investigators arouse doubts in Moscow and among independent observers. For example, the fact that a diplomat of the Russian embassy had rented a car for his compatriots, who had allegedly arrived in Qatar to fulfil a secret mission, does not seem realistic. Russian special services could have hardly acted so unprofessionally and left such obvious traces.

    Moreover, Moscow did not need to eliminate Yandarbiyev, who had lately stopped participating in Chechen affairs.

    Meanwhile, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad Al Thani reported on Monday that hearings had already begun into the case of the two Russian citizens. The court will decide their fate. The minister did not specify whether the new Qatari law on terrorism, envisaging capital punishment, would be applied in relation to them. Al Thani did not say when the hearings had started either.

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