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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed to Head Peace Talk Delegation

President Boris Yeltsin named his security chief Alexander Lebed on Monday the head of a Russian delegation for further talks with Chechen separatists, the Kremlin press service said.

The appointment appeared to be a nod of approval for Lebed, who signed a controversial framework peace agreement with the separatists Aug. 31, apparently with only lukewarm approval from the president.

Many critics, led by Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, accused Lebed of capitulating to the rebels after 21 months of bloody conflict.

The accord provided for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway region and deferral by five years of a decision on a future political status of Chechnya.

The 17-member commission, headed by Lebed, includes several heads of Russian regions which neighbor Chechnya and representatives of the government.

Its aim was to "carry out talks on a settlement in the Chechen Republic," the press service said, adding Yeltsin had issued detailed guidelines for the body. It did not give details.

In Chechnya this weekend, the troops were involved in two confrontations that the Russian military blamed on rebel supporters.

No casualties were reported from Sunday's disputes, which came with the peace still holding firm but with some Chechen separatists increasingly impatient with the pace of the Russian withdrawal.

Chechen leaders are anxious for the completion of the Russian withdrawal -- which is supposed to finish by Oct. 20 -- partly because they plan to stage local elections across the southern republic within two months of its conclusion.

A group of separatists attempted to block a brigade of Russians leaving Alkhan-Yurt on the outskirts of the capital Grozny, Interfax and Russia's NTV Independent Television reported. The withdrawal of the 26th special brigade reportedly was held up for an hour.

NTV also reported that federal troops were fired on in the city of Argun.

Further details on the incidents were not immediately available.

The Russian military called on Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov to step up discipline among the rebels.

Rebel officials have acknowledged problems in getting all Chechen fighters to honor the terms of the August agreements.

Maskhadov reportedly told his field commanders last Wednesday that "iron discipline" was necessary in order to preclude provocations against Russian forces which could jeopardize accords with Moscow.

In Moscow, the State Duma geared up Monday for another attack on Lebed, with the parliamentary speaker saying peace in the breakaway republic no longer depends on Lebed's efforts.

The Duma will be holding closed-door hearings on Chechnya on Tuesday. Lebed, the architect of a peace deal with the Chechen rebels, is expected to testify.

Lebed demanded the hearings after many lawmakers in the largely hardline Duma assailed his agreement earlier this month, and Kulikov said it amounts to "high treason."

Peace settlement in Chechnya, Communist Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov said Monday, "no longer depends on the efforts of the Security Council secretary but on the president, the government and us, the lawmakers." (Reuters, AP)

But Seleznyov, in comments carried by Itar-Tass, said he does not expect a new fight at the hearings. "The first wave has diminished, and now we should look for a constructive way out of the current situation," he said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Russian lawmakers flew to the Northern Caucasus on Sunday to meet Chechen separatist leaders for talks on establishing Chechnya's legal status.

Mikhail Gutseriyev, the delegation head, said the parliament deputies will meet with the Chechens in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia to discuss a wide range of issues connected with ending the war in Chechnya.

The lawmakers met North Ossetian leaders in Vladikavkaz on Sunday and were headed to Nazran on Monday to meet leaders of Ingushetia.

?Russian writer Nikolai Ivanov returned to Moscow on Sunday after more than three months of being held in captivity by an armed Chechen group not affiliated with the separatists. He was freed through efforts of various Chechens and the Russian tax police, Itar-Tass reported.

Ivanov, 40, works for the tax police but is better known in Russia as the award-winning writer of such books as "Tax Police Department" and "Women's Beach."