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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Praises Premier's Chechen Deal

State Duma deputies Friday gave Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin high marks for cutting a new peace deal with Chechen separatists, in marked contrast to the hostile reaction they gave Security Council chief Alexander Lebed earlier this week for his peace-making efforts.

Communist Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov said he welcomed the deal between Chernomyrdin and Chechen separatist president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev while Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party, described it as the "right move."

The deal, signed in Moscow on Thursday, will set up a joint Russian-Chechen commission to supervise key issues including the withdrawal of Russian troops, the creation of a new coalition government, post-war reconstruction and law and order.

Although only a day earlier they had attacked Lebed for talking to Chechen rebels and for signing the August Khasavyurt accords which ended the war in the region, deputies were positive Thursday toward Chernomyrdin's deal which is intended as a continuation of the earlier accords.

Zyuganov's only criticism of Chernomyrdin's deal was that it should have come much earlier. "Chernomyrdin should have attended to this [talks with the separatists] from the very beginning and should have regulated this process from the very beginning" rather than waiting until the Chechen fighters' hostage-taking raid on Budyonnovsk forced him to the negotiating table.

"In politics one should foresee developments and make decisions on time," Zyuganov said.

Zyuganov and Seleznyov both insisted that Russia's territorial integrity must remain intact and that there must be respect for rights of all citizens, an obvious reference to the Russian citizens still living in Chechnya.

Chernomyrdin's success in winning a favorable reaction was apparently due in part to the way in which it was sold to the public: he and his office made tough statements before and after the meeting stressing that the deal did not give Chechnya independence.

But some analysts said that the attacks on Lebed were due to the fact that many disliked his sudden rise to power. Moreover, the content of Thursday's deal was more acceptable to nationalist deputies since it appeared to retain a role for Russia in Chechnya's affairs.

Seleznyov praised Chernomyrdin for making it clear that further talks with the Chechens could only proceed from the principle of Russia's integrity.

"As far as I understand, the parties seem to have agreed on the creation of an interim joint commission on whose basis a coalition government will be formed in Chechnya in the future. The federal authorities will work out a treaty on power sharing with Chechnya as with a constituent member of the federation. That is right," he said.

Zyuganov also stressed nationalist themes in his positive assessment of the new deal. "Two main conditions should be secured: Russia's territorial integrity and respect for the rights of all citizens in Chechnya," he said.

Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the Duma's Security Committee and one of the most radical Communist Party deputies, was a dissenting critical voice.

"The so-called Chechen government of popular trust is illegitimate. The attempt to sign an agreement with Yandarbiyev is actually a recognition of separatism. The Chechen Republic has legitimate authorities elected by popular vote," he said, in a reference to Doku Zavgayev's puppet Moscow-backed government which collapsed in August when rebels seized control of the capital Grozny.

Many Duma deputies used the same arguments against the agreement signed by Lebed. As recently as Thursday, Seleznyov said he would not meet Yandarbiyev and would only hold talks with the pro-Moscow official head of Chechnya Zavgayev.

Lebed has promised a closed hearing for both chambers of parliament together in which he will defend the Khasavyurt agreement in greater detail away from the eyes and ears of the press.

Sergei Yushenkov, a leader of Russia's Democratic Choice and member of the Duma's Defense Committee said the talks showed there was a real chance for a "solid peace" in Chechnya.

But President Boris Yeltsin's approval of Lebed's performance in Chechnya largely contributed to that, perhaps more than the talks, he said. Yeltsin backed Lebed's peace deal in a radio address Thursday.

"It appears that reason is beginning to get the upper hand. This inspires hope," Yushenkov said.

?Rebel fighters rescued wounded Russian soldiers after a military helicopter crashed near Grozny, killing up to eight and wounding as many as 24 servicemen, The Associated Press reported Friday.

The Mi-8 helicopter went down late Thursday while flying from Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia to the main federal military base outside Grozny at Khankala, the military command said. The cause of the crash has not been determined.