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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chuvashia President Defiant, Reserves Right Not to Fight

The head of Russia's small Chuvashia region stepped up his defiance of Moscow on Thursday by saying he would not withdraw a decree permitting servicemen to refuse to fight in Chechnya.

Nikolai Fyodorov, president of the ethnic Chuvash republic on the Volga River, said he would ignore a demand by President Boris Yeltsin to cancel the decree issued on Jan. 11. Yeltsin said it challenged Moscow's right to intervene in Chechnya.

"I will not cancel the decree because it is in the framework of the Russian constitution and is intended to protect the interests of servicemen," Itar-Tass quoted Fyodorov from the Chuvash capital, Cheboksary.

Fyodorov, a former Russian justice minister, said he had learned Thursday of the death of another Chuvash conscript fighting in Chechnya. "This fact convinces me of the timeliness of my directive," Tass quoted him.

The decree did not directly mention Chechnya -- a republic with the same status under the Russian constitution -- but allowed servicemen from Chuvashia to refuse to fight in conflicts on the territory of Russia.

It said current laws did not allow for the use of the armed forces in settling conflicts on Russian soil. It said interior ministry units could be used only in a state of emergency. No state of emergency has been declared in Chechnya.