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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed Holds Fire in Secret Chechen Debate

National security chief Alexander Lebed defended his Chechen peace plan in closed-door hearings before the State Duma on Tuesday, but stopped short of the sensational revelations that observers had been expecting.

The hearings were held in almost unprecedented secrecy, and few details emerged after the four-hour session ended. Prior to the hearings, Lebed had promised to reveal "who, how and for how much Chechnya was sold," according to Interfax.

But deputies said that while the plain-speaking ex-general was liberal with blame for the Chechen war, he offered no new material and carefully avoided aggravating what has become a bitter squabble between him and other top government officials.

Immediately following the hearings, the ex-paratrooper left the Duma without commenting to the press.

Yelena Mizulina, deputy chairwoman of the Duma's legislative committee, told reporters that Lebed had blamed three officials for prolonging the Chechen war.

While she declined to disclose the three names, Interfax reported she "made it clear" that Lebed had named Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov and Doku Zavgayev, head of the Moscow-backed Chechen government, as two of the culprits. Mizulina did not identify the third official.

Lebed had called for the hearings earlier this month, after his Aug. 31 peace agreement with Chechen separatists was attacked by lawmakers and government officials, Kulikov foremost among them. The interior minister has characterized Lebed's Khasavyurt agreements as "high treason."

The two generals have traded insults and accusations since mid-August, when Lebed publicly demanded that Kulikov be sacked, blaming the interior minister for the rebels' seizure of Grozny.

In response, Kulikov accused Lebed of a "maniacal" lust for power.

Analysts had predicted an explosion at Tuesday's hearings, but by most accounts the proceedings were rather tame.

The improvement of relations between the two generals may have been the result of President Boris Yeltsin's intervention.

Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Tuesday that Yeltsin had ordered Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Lebed and Kulikov to reach a consensus on Chechnya prior to the closed parliamentary hearings.

"The president is concerned General Pavel Golubets, who was at that time chief of the Interior Ministry's coordinating center for Chechnya.

Lebed said his conclusion was based on his own investigation of the events leading up to the seizure of the Chechen capital, Interfax reported.

The news agency reported that the Duma had instructed several committees to check Lebed's evidence and submit appropriate proposals.

Kulikov appeared unfazed by Lebed's accusations.

"The complaints presented were the same as those which were made earlier," he told Interfax. "On Oct. 7, I sent a report to the president in which I answered in detail all the questions contained in the telegram sent to me by Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed."

Kulikov said he is prepared to direct his explanations of the Chechnya situation to the Prosecutor General's Office.

A "duel" between Lebed and Kulikov, Izvestia reported, may still take place, but "a bit later." According to the newspaper, Lebed arrived at the hearings with a folder of incriminating documents, which is being called "Maskhadov's folder," after Chechen military chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov.

Lebed has frequently claimed to have information indicating that the war in Chechnya has shady economic roots. Two analysts, who asked not to be identified, said Lebed possesses documents implicating high-level officials in various nefarious activities, including funneling money to the rebels.

But Lebed told Interfax on Tuesday that he was not collecting compromising materials on his rivals."Compromising materials do not interest me," he said. "That's not what I do."

If Lebed's meeting with Kulikov was friendlier than expected, his reception by legislators was apparently hostile. In a meeting in the offices of Trud, he said deputies tried to "educate" him, noting that he was "asked insidious questions like: 'Do you have a conscience?' and 'How many faces' do I have."

According to Lebed, hardline Duma deputy General Albert Makashov asked him: "Do you have a place to flee Moscow for?"

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Chechen separatists' parliament said Tuesday the body will set a date next week for parliamentary and presidential elections, Interfax reported. The separatists' Defense Committee announced earlier Tuesday that elections would be held no later than January of next year.

The separatist leadership had previously said elections would be held two months after the withdrawal of Russian troops.

For his part, Zavgayev called the decision to hold elections in January "unrealistic," while Lebed called it "hasty."

Former Russian parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, who heads a team of advisers to Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, said "free and democratic elections" were impossible in Chechnya at present.