Moscow, May 10 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin, reaffirming his intention to visit Chechnya, says talks are essential for securing peace in the breakaway republic.
Yeltsin told voters today in the southern Russian town of Znamensk he plans to go to Chechnya on a peace mission soon, but did not give an exact date. Yeltsin was reported to have said that it is "essential" for federal forces, the pro-Moscow Chechen government and the separatists to "sit down around a table and sign a peace deal."
Yeltsin, on the third stop of his campaign swing through southern Russia, said a peace deal could be signed before scheduled presidential elections on June 16.
Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev today was reported to have said that talks are the only way to achieve peace. Yandarbiyev said a meeting at "the appropriate level" could become "the launching pad for peace negotiations."
RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent reports that one civilian was seriously wounded in overnight shelling in the southern Chechen village of Urus-Martan, 45 kilometers southwest of Grozny. Urus-Martan administration spokesman, Lema Gaisultanov was reported to have said that Russian troops completely blocked the village.
Russian Defense and Interior Ministries have not confirmed the shelling.