Prague, 16 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Separatist leaders have received no official invitation from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to attend hearings on Chechnya in Strasbourg later this month, says Chechen separatist spokesman Movladi Udugov.
Udugov told RFE/RL in a telephone interview from Chechnya over the weekend that Chechen separatists representatives would agree to travel to Strasbourg if they received an official letter inviting them as they are keen "to strenghten the peace deal" signed with Russia on August 31.
The Council of Europe last week renewed invitations to Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov and Russia's Security Council Aleksandr Lebed to attend the scheduled September 23 hearing in Strasbourg. The Russian State Duma's delegation has declined to attend the session, saying pro-Moscow Chechen officials should have been invited.
The speaker of the Russian Duma, Gennady Seleznyov, told Itar-Tass that the session will be "senseless" without the participation of the Russian representation.
It is not known if Lebed will travel to Strasbourg.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, criticized the Council's plan for a hearing on Chechnya as a rude interference in Russia's internal affairs.
The Council of Europe rejected charges that it is interfering in Moscow's domestic policies and said that "human rights violations are never an internal affair."
The Council aims to foster democracy and human rights. Russia became a member in February, only after pledging to seek a peaceful settlement in Chechnya.