Grozny, 23 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Itar-tass news agency reports that Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya has begun creating its own professional army.
The agency quotes the General Staff of Chechnya's army, composed of field commanders of separatist fighters' units that remain armed after the conflict with Russia, as saying that the first battalion has already been created.
The Tass report says the battalion is made up of soldiers from 15 field commanders units. President Aslan Maskhadov, formerly Chechnya's top military commander, has ordered each unit to send its 10 best fighters.
Our Chechnya correspondent says the battalion is undergoing training at a base near the Chechen capital, Grozny. Servicemen are aged between 17 and 45. They reportedly signed a 5-year contract. The size of their salary is unknown. It is also unclear how many units will be formed.
Russia and separatist Chechnya waged nearly two years of war against Russia until a peace deal was signed last August.