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Chechnya: Commanders Meet; Troops Pull Out; Lebed Waits For Yeltsin

Moscow, 28 August 1996 (RFE/RL) - The Russian and Chechen commanders, Vyacheslav Tikhorimov and Aslan Maskhadov, have begun another meeting in the village of Novye Atagy in southern Chechnya today to discuss implementation of peace agreements. The Russian military command told Itar Tass that Tikhomirov intends to urge separatists to return Russian armored vehicles they seized in the latest outbreak of fighting in the Chechen capital, Grozny, and to release prisoners of war.

Meanwhile Russian troops continued to leave Grozny today in line with the truce agreement. Rebel forces also began pulling out. The command of Russian federal forces says that one infantry unit left the city this morning and that some 2,000 Russian troops will be withdrawn by the end of the day.

In Moscow, Russian security chief Aleksandr Lebed, who brokered the truce with the separatists, is still awaiting a response from President Boris Yeltsin on his plan to solve the political aspects of the conflict. He said he hoped to receive an answer from Yeltsin later today or tomorrow.

In an interview with Ria Novosti, Lebed warned today that dragging out political negotiations with the rebels could undermine the military agreements already reached. Lebed says he expects to return to Chechnya tomorrow or on Friday to resume talks.

In another development, Lebed met the head of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) mission in Chechnya, Tim Guldimann today.

Few details of the meeting are available but the RFE/RL correspondent quotes Russian government officials as saying that Lebed and Guldimann discussed the settlement of the Chechen conflict.

Some 30,000 people, mostly civilians, are believed to have been killed in 20 months of fighting since Yeltsin sent troops to stop an independence bid in Chechnya in late 1994.