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Russia: Chernomyrdin Rules Out Chechnya Secession

Moscow, 21 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin today ruled out any prospect of Chechnya being allowed to secede from the Russian Federation. But he said Moscow wants a peaceful solution to the 21-month conflict.

Itar-Tass quoted Chernomyrdin as saying today that "Russia's territorial integrity is not up for discussion." He made the comment as he introduced Ivan Rybkin, the new Security Council Secretary and presidential envoy to Chechnya, to the body's members.

Interfax news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying that Russia intends to hold negotiations with Chechen separatists and move further in the direction of a peaceful settlement. He added that there should be understanding for all sides, including the Chechens.

"If there is understanding, then there will be a solution," said Chernomyrdin.

Rybkin replaces Aleksandr Lebed, who was fired last week by president Boris Yeltsin. Lebed had brokered an August 31 peace deal with separatist leaders which ended the fighting. Russian officials had sharply attacked Lebed for signing the peace deal, which provides for a gradual withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and the postponement of a decision on Chechnya's future status for five years.

Tass quoted Rybkin as pledging he would immediately start consultations, in line with the work previously carried out by the Security Council.