After offering an amnesty for Chechen fighters on Thursday, President Putin changed track 24 hours later, vowing to crush the Chechen fighters. "We will certainly finish this task. People in Chechnya will eventually live a normal, civilised life," he said.

  

New setbacks

 

Putin's speech on the state of the Union came as Russia faced more setbacks on the Chechnyan front. Georgia's supreme court ruled Friday that it would not extradite two Chechens wanted by Russia. 

Putin: showing signs of frustration

The two countries are engaged in a tense tug-of-war over Chechen fighters. Russia has accused Georgia of not cracking down on the separatists fighting Russian invasion forces. It has demanded that Georgia hand over Chechen fighters who have found refuge in that country.

 

Also Friday, three Russian soldiers were killed and three others wounded when their armoured vehicle came under attack  in the Caucasus republic of Ingushetia near the border with Chechnya.

 

Chechen fighters have battled Russian federal forces in two wars. The first, between December 1994 to late 1996. And the second, in October 1999 when Moscow sent troops back in.

  

The Russian 'For Human Rights' Group criticised Moscow's refusal to negotiate with Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected Chechen president after the first  war in 1996 but was later disavowed by Moscow as a "terrorist". This has given rise to forces with which it is impossible to negotiate, it said.

 

The group also said recent human bomb attacks showed that  resistance in Chechnya had taken "a new form", likening it to tactics adopted by the Palestinians.  

  

"It is the beginning of suicide attacks akin to those of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is clear that new groups will join the ranks" of veteran Chechen fighters, the non-government organisation said.

  

Two human bomb attacks within days of one another this week killed at least 87 people in Chechnya.