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Russia: Efforts Underway To Gain Release Of Hostages

Grozny, 16 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Efforts are underway to secure the release of 22 Russian Interior Ministry troops being held hostage on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan.

The commander of Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya, General-Major Vladimir Dmitrin, told Interfax news agency that a delegation composed of high-level Chechen and Dagestani officials is due to travel to the border village of Novy Gyerzyel today. The delegation will meet Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev, who took the soldiers hostage two days ago.

The delegation will include Akhmed Zakayev, an aide to Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The Interior Minister of the self-proclaimed Chechen government, Kazbek Makhashyev, and Dagestan's Security Council Secretary, Magomed Tolboyev, will also attend.

The First Deputy Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed government, Movladi Udugov, told Russia's NTV channel last night that he hoped the hostages would be released today.

The commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, Vladimir Sukhopruchenko, told Interfax today that he didn't believe the incident would undermine the peace process.