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Yeltsin Leaves Chechnya After Brief Visit

Moscow, May 28 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin has returned to a Russian military base in Mozdok, Northern Ossetia, after paying a brief visit to the Caucasus republic of Chechnya today.

Itar-tass says Yeltsin is expected to depart soon for the Russian capital Moscow.

The visit came a day after Russian and Chechen separatists reached a ceasefire agreement to take effect at midnight on Friday. But yesterday's talks avoided the thorniest issue -- Chechen separatist demands for independence. Russian and Chechen separatists had agreed beforehand not to include the matter at the talks. Yeltsin has said Chechen independence is non-negotiable.

Earlier today, Yeltsin declared the war "over" to Russian troops at the airport in Grozny. He congratulated the servicemen saying they had, in his words, "won." and, at a public meeting, Yeltsin described the Chechen conflict as Russia's "sharpest pain."

He also defended his decision to send troops into the breakaway republic in December 1994, saying extremist forces had resorted to terror actions to stage a revolt. Yeltsin warned of taking unspecified "extreme measures" if the Chechen separatists violate the ceasefire accord.