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Chechnya: At Least 80,000 People Died In War, Says Lebed


Moscow, 3 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian National Security chief Aleksandr Lebed said today that at least 80,000 people have died in the 21-month-long war in Chechnya.

Addressing a news conference in Moscow, Lebed said 80,000 people "plus or minus 10,000" had been killed. The death toll had previously been estimated at around 30,000.

But Lebed said that the conflict was at last over. He said all Russian troops would be out of Chechnya within two months. Lebed added that he was optimistic that the peace agreement he helped create and signed last week with the separatists would be implemented.

Lebed shrugged off concerns expressed by some Russian government officials over the deal. He said "the major thing is that military operations are over and the peace agreements are signed."

Lebed also said he could "do anything" but he said "open support" from President Boris Yeltsin -- which has so far not been forthcoming -- "wouldn't hurt."

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin today reaffirmed his conditional backing for the Chechen peace deal crafted by Security Council chief Aleksandr Lebed, saying it followed the "general line" set by Russian officials for resolving the conflict.

Chernomyrdin spoke shortly after arriving in Nalchik, capital of the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. He is scheduled to hold a day of consultations with leaders of other regions of Russia's North Caucasus.

Yesterday, after meeting Lebed in Moscow, Chernomyrdin cautiously praised the deal, but expressed reservations about its "political price." Itar-Tass quoted Chernomyrdin as saying today that President Boris Yeltsin fully backed the peace accord.

The new Chechen peace accord, signed over the weekend, calls for the demilitarization of Grozny, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and delaying a decision on the republic's final political status until 2001.

Chernomyrdin said today that the Kremlin's decision to send troops into Chechnya in December 1994 to crush the breakaway republic's independence bid, "did not produce the required results" and had led to a "dead end." He said Russia had to sort out what he termed a "disgrace" and "shame."

In Chechnya, Chechen separatist spokesman Movladi Udugov said today that the breakaway republic will mark this Friday, the traditional "independence day," with low key remembrance ceremonies.

Udugov, speaking in the southern Chechen village of Novye Atagi, said "there will be no military parades," adding that the separatists did "not want to offend Russia."

September 6 celebrates Chechnya's unilateral independence declaration back in 1991.
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