Russia's security chief Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen separatist chief-of-staff Aslan Maskhadov signed an agreement today aimed at ending three weeks of renewed fighting in the breakaway republic, say Russian news agencies.
The contents of the document negotiated in the village of Novye Atagi,m south of the Chechen capital of Grozny, have not been officially disclosed. But Itar-Tass says it provides for the disengagement of Russian and rebel forces in Grozny and for establishing joint control of certain areas of the devastated city.
Lebed told reporters after signing the disengagement agreement that he hoped to sign a political deal with separatist leaders soon which would sort out the root of the conflict -- the republic's future status.
Lebed said he will return to Chechnya "with a draft political agreement in two days. We will discuss it and sign it." He gave no details of the planned deal.
Meanwhile, the situation in Grozny is reported to be quiet after a Russian military ultimatum expired for civilians to leave Grozny ahead of a major Russian assault.
Defense Minister Igor Rodionov repeated in Moscow today that then acting Russian commander in Chechnya, General Konstantin Pulikovsky -- who on Monday issued the ultimatum -- acted on his own initiative, without consulting the Defense Ministry in Moscow.
General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, who had been on vacation, is now in command of Russian forces in Chechnya. Interfax reports that Pulikhovsky is still in the Russian military base in Khankala outside Grozny and is soon to be transferred to a new post.
Russia's military prosecutor in Chechnya, Igor Shevchenko, said more than 400 Russian soldiers have died in Chechnya since the Chechen offensive on Grozny on August 6. He said more than 1,200 servicemen have been wounded and another 130 are reported missing. The figure could not be independently confirmed and Chechen casualties are not known.