Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 163

Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin gave his backing yesterday to the Khasavyurt accords signed on August 31 by Kremlin security chief Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov. (See Monitor, September 3 for details of the accords.) More to the point, Chernomyrdin said President Boris Yeltsin had approved the peace deal. Yeltsin himself has remained silent on the issue. "The agreements signed by Lebed cause some concern but on the whole we consider them to be right," Chernomyrdin stated. "We should act within the framework of these agreements and keep to their main strategy." Chernomyrdin said he approved of the agreement’s provisions which defer a final decision on Chechnya’s status by five years and gave grudging sanction to the idea of settling the status of the republic by a referendum. And, for the first time, Chernomyrdin admitted that the Kremlin had made "grave mistakes" in Chechnya. (Russian and Western agencies, September 3)

Lebed told a press conference yesterday that Russian troops could be out of Chechnya in two months, though details remain to be worked out. He promised to expedite the exchange of prisoners-of-war, admitting that the "all-for-all" principle so far applied was not working. He defended himself against those (ranging from presidential chief-of-staff Anatoly Chubais to Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov and nationalist parliamentarian Sergei Baburin) who have criticized the Khasavyurt accords on the grounds that they may provoke the disintegration of the Russian Federation. "As for Russia’s territorial integrity," Lebed stated, "I am for it, but the issue cannot be resolved through the means used up till now. We now have five years to fine-tune the nuances of integrity." (Russian and Western news agencies, September 3)

Lebed said yesterday that responsibility for resolving the conflict rests jointly with himself and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. Previously, he had stressed that Yeltsin had given him full responsibility for negotiating a settlement. Chernomyrdin had insisted that, as long as Yeltsin remained on vacation outside Moscow, the security adviser should communicate with the president through the prime minister. Lebed and Chernomyrdin are jostling to ensure that, should Yeltsin become incapacitated, they will be well placed to step into the presidential shoes.

New Organization May Support Lebed’s Presidential Ambitions