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Chechnya: Lebed And Chernomyrdin Satisfied With Peace Efforts

Moscow, 26 August 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russian national security chief Aleksandr Lebed and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin say they are generally satisfied with the latest efforts to end the conflict in Chechnya. Lebed briefed Chernomyrdin today on his latest talks with Chechen separatists.

Interfax quotes a Lebed spokesman as saying the two agreed that several points in a draft document on Chechnya's future political status required further study.

Lebed reached a truce agreement last week with Chechen separatist commander Aslan Maskhadov that took effect Friday. However, Lebed called off further talks with Maskhadov yesterday so he could return to Moscow to consult with Russian leaders on legal aspects.

A possible meeting today between Yeltsin and Lebed has been postponed, but could take place as soon as tomorrow, reported Itar-Tass. It gave no reason for the cancellation.

Meanwhile, a Russian military official told Tass the withdrawal of Interior Ministry forces from Grozny had been suspended because Chechen fighters still had not returned all the arms they confiscated from a column of Russian soldiers in Grozny on Saturday. That incident led to further postponement of a planned meeting between the Russian and Chechen military commanders to discuss measures to firm up the truce.

A spokesman for the Russian interior ministry told Itar-Tass that last night was one of the "quietest" in the 20-month war. Despite the ceasefire, Itar-Tass reports that the pro-Moscow Chechen Culture Minister, Ilias Sigauri, was kidnapped over the weekend on the road between Grozny and Achkhoi-Martan. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

The commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, is expected to meet today with separatist commander Aslan Maskhadov to continue efforts toward solidifying the ceasefire in the breakaway republic.

Interfax reports that all but two members of the pro-Moscow Chechen government are currently outside the breakaway republic.

A spokesman for Moscow-backed Chechen Prime Minister Nikolay Koshman said only two deputy prime ministers -- Said Rashidov and Yunadi Usamov -- remain in Grozny carrying out their duties.

Koshman, pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgayev and First Deputy Prime Minister Abdula Bugayev are at the Chechen mission in Moscow. Cabinet press secretary Ruslan Martagov is also in Moscow, while Deputy Prime Minister Barudin Dzhamalkhanov is reported to be in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar.

The spokesman said the pro-Moscow Chechen ministers "have been learning about everything taking place in Chechnya from TV newscasts."