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Russia: Maskhadov Claims Victory In Chechen Presidential Election

Grozny, 28 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov has claimed victory in the breakaway republic's presidential elections. Our correspondent in Grozny reports Maskhadov as saying that his first priority would be to hold talks with Moscow. Maskhadov, who spoke at a news conference, said he wanted to discuss Chechnya's economic problems with the Russian leadership, especially compensation for damages suffered by the Chechens during the war.

The head of the central electoral commission, Mumadi Saydayev, said that with almost all the votes counted, Maskhadov was leading with 70 percent.

His nearest rival, former field commander Shamil Basayev, is in second place followed by the current President, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who has already conceded defeat.

Tim Guldimann, who heads the local mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said today that the elections had been free and fair and declared the vote legitimate.

Moscow has said it is willing to cooperate with whoever is elected president. All 13 candidates have said they support Chechen independence.

Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said today that the results of yesterday's elections in Chechnya give a serious chance for what he called a "productive negotiation process" to continue.

Presidential Spokesman Sergei Yasterzhembsky told reporters in Moscow that Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met today to discuss the election results. He said Yeltsin believes the outcome will allow for what he called "a mutually acceptable" resolution to the question of Chechnya's future status in the Russian Federation.

Yasterzhembsky said Yeltsin was satisfied with the elections and was pleased with the high turnout.

Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov expressed confidence that no country will recognize an independent Chechnya, noting today that the United States and Turkey have said they consider the Caucasus republic to be a part of the Russian federation.