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Chechnya: Council Of Europe Reaffirms Chechen Invitations

Strasbourg, 12 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Council of Europe today renewed invitations to Chechen separatist chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov and Russia's Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed to attend a hearing in Strasbourg, despite Russian officials' strong criticism

President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky said the plan was a rude interference in Russia's internal affairs. He said in Moscow today that the question of future relations with Chechnya Federation Republic will be decided by the president, the government and the parliament through talks.

Russia "deems it inappropriate to discuss this issue at an international forum," he said.

But Leni Fischer, who heads the Parliamentary Assembly of the 39-nation Council, has rejected charges the Council is interfering in Moscow's domestic policies.

"Human rights violations are never an internal affair," she said. She confirmed the invitation to Lebed to visit September 23, and to take part in a hearing on a Chechnya peace plan brokered August 31.

Russia joined the Council of Europe, which aims to foster democracy and human rights, in February, only after Moscow pledged to seek a peaceful settlement in Chechnya.

Yesterday, State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov and parliamentary deputy Vladimir Lukin, who chairs the Duma's foreign affairs committee and heads Moscow's delegation to the Council, said they had informed the Council that Russia would not attend the session September 23.

Lukin said he had met Lebed and asked him to do the same. It is not known whether Lebed will turn down the invitation.