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Yandarbiyev Arrives in Moscow

Sleptsovsk, Russia, May 27 (RFE/RL) -- A plane carrying Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev arrived in Moscow, where talks with the Russian leadership are scheduled to open later today. Russian media (Itar Tass/Ifx) say a special plane carrying Yandarbiyev and his delegation took off from an airport in the republic of Ingushetia early this afternoon. The plane will arrive at Moscow's Vnukovo airport, from where Yandarbiyev will head straight to the Kremlin for talks chaired by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Speaking at the airport in the Ingush town of Sleptsovsk just before take-off, Yandarbiyev said there was hope for peace in Chechnya. He said he was ready to order an end to the fighting but added "we have to see whether Yeltsin is capable of doing the same thing."

Yandarbiyev said he will offer the Russian side a "variant" to stop the war while, in his words, "saving the face of a great power."

Yandarbiyev reached Sleptsovsk by road convoy from the eastern Chechen village of Shali. Itar-Tass says the Chechen leader, accompanied by dozens of armed bodyguards, arrived at the airport in a Zil limousine which once belonged to former Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. The previous Chechen leader, Dhzokhar Dudayev, bought the car back in 1984.

Itar-Tass says Yandarbiyev delegation members include former Dudayev aide Movlen Salamov; field commander Akhmed Zakayev; Khusein Bibulatov; and Kozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, who led a Chechen delegation at peace talks last July. The Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says the head of its mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, is also accompanying Yandarbiyev.

Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin and Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov are scheduled to represent the Kremlin at the negotiations, which officials say could last two days. Meanwhile, in Chechnya, the commander of Russian forces General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov denied earlier reports of a three-day unilateral ceasefire during the talks.