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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Premier Plans First Visit to Chechnya

GROZNY -- Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is expected to visit Chechnya "in the near future" for talks on the rebel region's peace process and post-war reconstruction, Interfax reported Monday.

The visit would be a first for Chernomyrdin and would appear to confirm Moscow's intention to make the Chechen peace process stick, despite the tumultuous recent sacking of its author, former Security Council secretary Alexander Lebed.

The leaking of Chernomyrdin's plans came hot on the heels of last weekend's trip to the separatist region -- also a first -- by the new Security Council secretary and presidential envoy to Chechnya, Ivan Rybkin.

Quoting an unnamed government source, Interfax reported that the two men had discussed plans for the prime minister's visit on Rybkin's return Sunday.

And while the Interfax report could not be confirmed Monday, Chechen primedminister and chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov said even before last weekend's meeting that he was expecting Chernomyrdin soon.

Maskhadov met with Rybkin on Sunday in Nazran, the capital of neighboring Ingushetia, for talks which their host, Ingush president Ruslan Aushev characterized as "good and productive." There were clear signs, however, that the two sides remain divided over the issue of troop withdrawal.

The Chechens want a return to the pre-war situation, when no Russian troops were based a