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Russia/Chechnya: Rybkin Returns To Moscow

Nazran, 27 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Secretary of the Russian Security Council and representative of President Boris Yeltsin in Chechnya, Ivan Rybkin, returned to Moscow today after failing to make a scheduled meeting in Grozny due to poor weather.

Correspondents said his meeting with Prime Minister of Chechnya's self-declared government Aslan Maskhadov, which was scheduled for yesterday did not take place because bad weather forced Rybkin's plane to land in Nazran, Ingushetia, instead.

The two officials did speak by telephone last night. Itar-tass reports that they discussed preparations for the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Chechnya.

Rybkin told journalists in Nazran yesterday that the elections set for Jan. 27 "must take place in conditions of demilitarization." He said it would be "impermissible" for the voting to be conducted with arms in or near polling stations. Rybkin said both Moscow and Chechen officials would welcome international observers to the elections. He said "We all want the elections to be honest, democratic and fair, and for the world to recognize them."

In Grozny yesterday, Chechnya's five leading presidential candidates failed to agree on a single candidate to support. The five are Maskhadov, the leader of the self-proclaimed government Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, its first deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, field commander Shamil Basayev and Security Chief Akhmed Zakayev. A total of 19 people have filed to run. Today is the closing day for registering candidates, each of whom have to collect 10,000 signatures to win a place on the ballot.