Senior Russian officials continue looking for ways around President Boris Yeltsin’s sudden orders to hold concurrent federal and republican elections December 17 in Chechnya. In Moscow, presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov ventured his "personal opinion" that the holding of elections could further aggravate the situation in Chechnya and that Moscow should "determine what would improve, not aggravate the situation." In Grozny, Russia’s security council secretary and presidential envoy to Chechnya Oleg Lobov conceded that the situation had deteriorated following the decision to hold the elections, and that these can be postponed "if need be." But an unrepentant Yeltsin issued a statement charging that the November 20 attempt against the life of Moscow-appointed Chechen leader Doku Zavgayev was part of a terrorist plan to block the elections. Zavgayev, who was unharmed, had two days earlier persuaded the communist-era Chechen Supreme Soviet to approve the holding of elections and to adopt an electoral law which provides for a minimum turnout of only 25 percent of currently registered voters for a valid election of a "head of the republic."
Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev recommended in a wide-ranging interview that Russia should "put the emphasis on force," resume full-scale hostilities, and create a 20,000-strong Chechen militia to be used against Chechen insurgents. Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev’s spokesman Movladi Udugov commented that Grachev’s idea reflected an intent to make Chechens kill each other but also a completely erroneous assessment of the situation in Chechnya. Pro-independence rallies were held in Grozny and in two northern districts supposed to be under firm Russian military control. Meanwhile 11 Russian soldiers were officially reported killed in Chechnya November 19 and 20. (5)