Russian military freezes out ABC

Sunday, 31 July 2005, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK

Russia's defence chief has barred the ministry from contact with ABC TV after the US network's interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

Sergei Ivanov said the ministry considered ABC "persona non grata" following Thursday's broadcast.

However, the foreign ministry has said it will not deny ABC accreditation.

The rebel has claimed the 2004 raid on a school in Beslan. In the interview he said he was a "terrorist" but that Russians were "terrorists" too.

Russia's most wanted man also said he was plotting more attacks.

"Today I have given the order to the head of the press service that not one serviceman of the defence ministry should have contact with the American television channel ABC," Mr Ivanov said in televised comments.

"We will continue to act openly with the press, but this channel will not be invited to the defence ministry and no interviews will ever be given to it.

"This channel is now persona non grata for the defence ministry and is an outcast."

On Friday, the Russian foreign ministry summoned a top US diplomat to express its "strong indignation" at the broadcast.

The interview conducted by Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky was recorded at the warlord's hideout in Chechnya.

Russia is offering $10m (£6m) for the capture of the warlord who has claimed other major attacks such as the downing last year of two Russian civilian airliners.

More than 320 people - around half of them children - were killed at the school in Beslan last September.