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Russia: Chernomyrdin Defends Chechnya Policy As Duma Meets

Moscow, 29 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin today defended the government's decisions on Chechnya, saying they were all based on the Russian Constitution. Chernomyrdin spoke during a working meeting on the 1997 budget as the Duma held a special session to discuss a decision to withdraw the last two military units from Chechnya. Many deputies have criticized the withdrawal plans and have attacked an interim agreement Chernomyrdin and Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov signed last weekend.

Chernomyrdin noted that the agreement was not permanent and would only govern relations between the federal center and Chechnya for two months. He said the accord was aimed at giving Chechnya a chance to hold what he called "legitimate" elections, which are scheduled for January 27.

Chernomrydin said measures to help revive Chechnya's economy would help resolve political problems surrounding the breakaway republic.

Duma deputies had sharp words for the government's policy toward Chechnya today. The chairman of the Duma's defense committee, Lev Rokhlin, said the government's steps would "without a doubt lead to the republic separating from Russia."

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said today that communist deputies no longer plan to ask for a vote of no confidence in the government today. Some deputies had threatened to start impeachment moves against Russian President Boris Yeltsin for ordering the last Russian combat troops out of Chechnya.

Zyuganov made the comment after a meeting of his Duma parliamentary faction. He spoke with reporters as the Duma started convening a special session to discuss Yeltsin's recent withdrawal decision.

However, Zyuganov said the communists in Parliament are against deleting the question of no confidence in the government from the agenda and would insist on returning to the motion during the debates about the federal budget for 1997. Hard-line deputies have said the withdrawal of forces could lead to Chechnya's independence from the Russian Federation.

The Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov and the chief of the Federal Security Service Nikolay Kovalyov (FSB) today told the Duma they would be unable to appear in Parliament and address the lawmakers on the issue. Kulikov, whose troops have carried out much of the fighting in Chechnya and who opposed the withdrawal, said today he was ready to get his men out of the republic.

The Russian pullout is expected to be completed before January 27, when presidential elections will be held in Chechnya. The president of the Russian autonomous republic of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimyiev, said today the election of legitimate Chechen representatives is important for the stabilization of the situation in the republic.