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Russian parliament lets Putin use commandos abroad

Written by: Staff
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MOSCOW, July 7 (Reuters) Russian lawmakers today unanimously endorsed a Kremlin request that President Vladimir Putin be allowed to send special forces to hunt down terrorists anywhere in the world.

Putin demanded the right in response to the murder last month of five Russian diplomats by Iraqi insurgents.

He has ordered that the militants be hunted down and ''eliminated'', and security services have offered 10 million dollars for information leading to their capture.

Senators in the Federation Council upper house of parliament rapidly approved the bill this morning. Putin now has to sign it into law.

They blamed international terrorists for the killing and said the permission would remain in force until ''the elimination of the threat of terrorist acts being carried out abroad against the Russian Federation or Russian citizens,'' Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has said he has special forces standing by to catch the ''scum'' that killed the diplomats, and officials say the step is entirely in line with international practice.

''This is not the use of the death penalty -- it is a reaction to aggression using the means the country thinks it should use to protect its own interests and the interests of its citizens,'' Putin said last evening.

He was waiting only for the Federation Council's permission before drawing up an order for troops to be dispatched, he said.

Ivanov's involvement suggests Russia will send special forces from the GRU, the armed forces' intelligence wing and one of two organisations seen as capable of conducting an operation.

''As far as handing out the orders and duties goes, they were given long ago and the whole system is working. This does not only relate to the scum that killed our five diplomats in Iraq,'' Ivanov was quoted by Interfax as saying yesterday.'' ''It also relates to any terrorists, independent of whether they committed their crime on Russian territory or abroad.'' Two Russians convicted of the murder by car bomb of a Chechen rebel envoy in Qatar in 2004 were accused by the court of being GRU agents. The prosecutors accused Ivanov, a close Putin ally, of having ordered the murder.

Moscow denied involvement in the killing at the time, but admitted the two men were agents and later secured their return to Russia.

REUTERS SI ND1456

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