Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 156

Russia’s chief security official Aleksandr Lebed signed an armistice agreement with Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov in Chechen-controlled Novye Atagi yesterday evening following day-long talks. The agreement goes into effect as of noon (08:00 GMT) today. It provides for termination of all combat actions, including "special operations" (denoting Russian military attacks on Chechen villages, which Moscow had deemed permissible under previous cease-fires). Starting today Russian troops are to withdraw from highland areas to specified deployment sites in the lowlands. The agreement lists withdrawal routes selected so as to avoid contact between Chechen forces and the withdrawing Russian forces. Grozny is to be demilitarized and policed by both sides through joint kommendatura bodies (the Russian equivalent of military police). The sides are to immediately begin exchanging prisoners and bodies of those killed in actions on an "all-for-all" basis.

The Chechen side asked for a political agreement to be signed simultaneously with the military one. Lebed urged a "stage-by-stage" process but agreed to return after two days with a draft political agreement.

President Boris Yeltsin stated yesterday evening in a televised interview that he is "not entirely satisfied with Lebed’s work in Chechnya… He has his powers, but unfortunately his work in Chechnya has not produced results. But we shall ultimately solve this problem." Yeltsin’s remarks add weight to the indications that he or his immediate entourage had underwritten the plan to assault and destroy Grozny. Conflict resolution specialist Emil Pain, who until the presidential election was presidential adviser on Chechnya, came out in support of this interpretation. Lebed for his part commented that "anyone who is unhappy is welcome to complain, including the president or God Almighty." "The constitutional order can not be introduced through air bombardment and artillery strikes," he added.

Russian forces officially reported losing some 65 killed in Grozny alone. At least 50 of that number were members of a signals force which had been sent into Grozny to direct the fire of Russian rockets in the assault on the city which was to have begun yesterday. The unit remained stranded in the city after the cancellation of the assault. The remaining Russian casualties were incurred in last-day fighting in which Chechens defended the city perimeter. As the cease-fire goes into effect, officially reported Russian military losses in Grozny alone since August 6 are at least 475 killed, 1300 wounded, and 130 missing.

Moscow-installed Chechen authorities seems to be rapidly unraveling. One of Doku Zavgaev’s deputy prime ministers declared that the latest developments have caused some members of the authorities to "defect to the enemy" and others to "move to the sidelines" while a third group stands its ground. In northern Chechnya, not a Dudaevite stronghold in the first place and long under a collaborationist administration, the populace is holding pro-independence rallies. In the bitterly disputed Shali district the Zavgaev police surrendered its arms to the resistance. The television studio of resistance forces has moved from the mountains to Grozny and is broadcasting regularly. The resistance official responsible for foreign affairs, Ruslan Chimaev, announced yesterday that an invitation is being sent to the Council of Europe to investigate military crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya. (Russian and Western agencies, August 22-23)

The Clinton’s Administration’s Muted Approach to Chechnya.