. President Boris Yeltsin told the press yesterday he was convinced that "if we withdraw the troops, there will be a massacre throughout Chechnya. If we don’t, it will be useless for me to seek re-election. The people won’t elect me." According to the president and his spokesman Sergei Medvedev, the Security Council’s meeting the preceding night debated seven possible scenarios for bringing the war in Chechnya to a close. It then appointed a commission under Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to produce within two weeks a draft policy decision based on one or several of those scenarios. Yeltsin appeared to rule out peace negotiations by reducing the issue to one of injured personal pride. "The president will not be the man to beg Dudayev for peace in Chechnya. He will never do it," Medvedev said. By contrast, Chernomyrdin told a meeting of the council of "Russia is Our Home" that the war had become Russia’s "gravest question of all" and that "we shall stop the war no matter how hard and painful this may be."
Meanwhile, Security Council members and other senior civilian and military officials spoke out in unison against pulling Russian troops out of Chechnya and sought to discourage the signature-collecting campaign for those troops’ withdrawal. The debate at the top appears to be between a minority that advocates a renewed military offensive and a majority that favors keeping troops in Chechnya, but avoiding large-scale combat and minimizing casualties in the months before to the presidential election. Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov appeared to suggest the outline of the forthcoming policy decision by staking a middle course between the "hotheads who favor a scorched-earth policy" and the "simplistic" notion of pulling Russian troops out of Chechnya before accomplishing the "destruction of the bandit forces." (5)
Chechen Demonstrations Continue.