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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya, Russia Extend Truce, Agree to Elections

GROZNY -- Chechen and Russian negotiators tentatively agreed at peace talks Friday that elections will be held in Chechnya, and they extended a shaky cease-fire in the breakaway republic.

Violations of the three-day-old truce that was to expire at midnight Friday have been reported on both sides.

Both sides promised to extend the cease-fire after blasting each other for violating it.

Meanwhile, a leading Chechen negotiator expressed skepticism that rebels would fulfill an earlier promise to help find and turn over rebel commander Shamil Basayev to the Russians.

"The Chechens will never betray him,'' said Aslan Maskhadov, chief of the Chechen forces, after talks ended Friday. They are set to reconvene Tuesday.

The talks began Monday at the demand of Basayev, who had led a group of rebels to storm the city of Budyonnovsk, seizing some 2,000 hostages.

Negotiators on Friday signed a protocol on free elections in Chechnya to be monitored by independent observers. Specific conditions for the elections will be decided later.

"The documents we have signed mean that a return to the use of force is not possible,'' said Usman Imayev, a Chechen delegate to the talks.

Maskhadov said, "Of course there are differences, but we will decide those peacefully, without resorting to force.''

As the fifth day of talks wound down in the Chechen capital, Grozny, weary demonstrators supporting Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev chanted prayers outside.

Russia reported that one Russian serviceman was killed in overnight fighting, Itar-Tass said. Colonel General Anatoly Kulikov, chief of Russian forces in Chechnya, said rebels launched 12 attacks Thursday night alone.

Imayev accused Russian forces of raiding the Chechen towns of Pervomayskaya, Samashki and Urus-Martan in search of terrorists.

Negotiators signed a protocol Wednesday to begin disarming the Chechens. Russia agreed to gradually withdraw all but 2,000 to 6,000 troops.