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Russia: Polling Stations For Chechen Refugees To Open In Seven Cities

Moscow, 11 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Security Council Chief Ivan Rybkin says an agreement has been reached to allow thousands of refugees to vote in Chechnya's presidential election at polling stations in cities outside the breakaway republic.

Rybkin told Interfax news agency today that polling stations would be opened in seven cities, including: Moscow, Odessa, Stavropol, Volgograd, Khasavyurt, and Nazran. He also said a polling station would be opened in a city in the Crimea, which he did not name.

He said he expects about 350,000 people who were forced to flee Chechnya because of the war will be able to vote in the election, scheduled for January 27.

Rybkin also he is not happy with what he called the "complicated and contradictory relations between Chechen leaders, who were until now united."

So far there are 19 presidential candidates, many of whom serve in the current self-declared Chechen government.

They include current Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, field commander Shamil Basayev, and Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov.

Meanwhile, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, which is scheduled to be completed before the elections, is continuing. Interfax quotes an unnamed representative of the Defense Ministry as saying a tank batallion of the 205th brigade arrived in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk from Chechnya today.