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Chechnya: Lebed And Yeltsin's Chief Aide Discuss Agreement

Moscow, 6 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's national security chief Aleksander Lebed met Anatoly Chubais, President Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff, today to discuss a peace agreement for Chechnya signed between Lebed and rebel leaders last week.

Interfax news agency quoted Andrey Trapeznikov, an aide to Chubais, as saying the meeting in the Kremlin lasted for two and a half hours. There was no immediate word on the exact content of their discussion. Yeltsin himself has not met with Lebed since the peace pact was signed.

Yesterday, the Russian leader gave partial backing to the plan, but said he was against one of its provisions, which calls for a rapid withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya.

The plan also calls for a coalition government to be set up in the breakaway republic and delays any decision on the key issue of Chechen sovereignty for five years.

Meanwhile, in Grozny, Chechens marked the fifth anniversary of their declaration of independence today with low-key remembrance ceremonies.

Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev addressed a crowd of about 5,000 people assembled in the central square of the war-torn capital of Grozny. The square was decorated with symbols of separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, who was reportedly killed earlier this year.

Yandarbiyev called for forgiveness in the wake of last week's peace accord. He announced an amnesty for "all those who shed blood in the name of the pro-Russian authorities."

Similar ceremonies were held elsewhere in Chechnya to commemorate those who were killed during the war.

Yandarbiyev, in an interview with Reuters news agency, insisted today that Chechnya remains independent. But he said that the Chechen separatists would honor the peace accord reached last week with Russia's national security chief, Aleksander Lebed. That accord calls for delaying a decision on Chechen independence for five years.

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who has backed the accord, today reiterated the Kremlin's long-standing opposition to Chechen independence.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, Lebed met with Anatoly Chubais, President Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff, today to discuss the situation in Chechnya. The talks were expected to focus on a plan for the demilitarization of Grozny, which was agreed at a meeting between Lebed and Chechen separatist leaders outside Grozny yesterday.

They were also expected to discuss the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway republic, which was called for under Lebed's peace accord. Yeltsin has backed the accord, but said he is against an early withdrawal of Russian troops.