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Russia: Chechen President Says Status Will Be Decided By 2000

Grozny/Moscow, 13 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Chechnya's new President Aslan Maskhadov said the final status of the breakaway republic's relations with Moscow would be decided before the year 2000. That deadline was established in peace accords with Russia last year.

Speaking to reporters at his Grozny residence, Maskhadov said Chechnya's political status may be decided "within a month or a year, the sooner, the better".

Maskhadov, who was sworn yesterday as the new Chechen president, has pledged to work for the breakaway republic's independence. Russia says Chechnya cannot be allowed to break away.

Maskhadov also said he had started forming a new government and that all war field commanders, including hostage-taker Shamil Basayev, would have equal chances to work as his new aides.

Meanwhile, in a diversion from Kremlin policy, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that Russia should let Chechnya break away. In an interview in the Moscow daily Trud, Luzhkov said the secession would benefit Russia itself and that "anyway Chechnya would seek full independence before the year 2000".