Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday investigators were probing a possible link between al Qaeda and Chechen rebels widely believed to have downed two Russian passenger planes a week ago.
An al Qaeda-linked group had claimed responsibility for the near-simultaneous attacks that killed 90 people, Putin told a news conference after talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac.
"This (claim) must still be proved by our security forces. But it is a fact that explosions occurred aboard two Russian airliners and if a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for this it confirms the link between specific forces in Chechnya and international terrorism."
But in a Turkish television interview due to be aired on Wednesday, Putin appeared to confirm the al Qaeda link.
"Two civilian aircraft were brought down by terrorist organizations with links to al Qaeda," an advance transcript of the interview with CNN Turk quoted Putin as saying. "There are links with international terror."