Russia has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Chechnya, the headquarters of the Russian Interior Ministry forces announced yesterday. All combat units of federal Interior and Defense Ministry troops have now left the republic. There had been several days of confusion over the timetable for the troop withdrawal, but the Interior Ministry’s Lt. Gen. Pavel Maslov said conflicting reports had been intentional and dictated by the need "to avoid possible provocations." (Interfax, Itar-Tass, Reuters, January 5) The withdrawal was ordered by Yeltsin in November to meet the terms of Moscow’s peace deal with Chechnya and to allow presidential and parliamentary elections to go ahead later this month. News that the withdrawal was complete provoked fierce criticism from hard-liners in the Russian parliament. Many Interior Ministry units, which bore the brunt of the fighting in Moscow’s two-year war against the breakaway republic, are now stationed in the southern Russian regions of Dagestan and Stavropol, which border on Chechnya. Russian television reports that some are now camped in freezing fields, since no permanent quarters are ready to receive them. (NTV, January 4)
Chechen Campaign Officially Begins.