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Russia: Chernomyrdin Rules Out Independence For Chechnya

Moscow, 8 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin says the Chechen conflict will be resolved by peaceful means and based on, what he called, the interests of the Chechen people and Russia.

But Chernomyrdin ruled out granting full independence to the Caucasus republic, saying Russia's territorial integrity is "not up for bargaining." He was speaking before the Federation Council, which reconvened today in Moscow for its fall session.

Chernomyrdin also praised the peace deal Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed struck with Chechen separatists at the end of August. But he cautioned the pact was not a legal framework, and characterized it as a "framework of political declarations."

Yesterday, Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov questioned the legality of the accords signed on August 31. Kulikov is expected to appeal today to the Federation Council--Russia's upper parliament-- to examine the legal basis for the agreement. Interfax quotes Kulikov today as saying he does not want to cancel the peace agreement, but he wants "no mistakes in implementing them."

Earlier today, President Boris Yeltsin met with the chairman of the Council, Yegor Stroyev, at the Barvikha sanatorium near Moscow, where the ailing 65-year-old president was moved yesterday. Interfax says the two leaders discussed methods for speeding up economic and social reforms.

In a message sent to the legislators, Yeltsin said this summer's presidential elections made further reform possible.