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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Picks Chief for Peace Delegation


Russia has named Valentin Vlasov to head the Russian delegation to the Joint Commission for Chechnya, which will hold its first working meeting with its Chechen counterparts Thursday, Interfax reported Wednesday.

Vlasov will be co-chairman of the commission and will be given powers equal to deputy prime minister rank, said Sergei Kharlamov of the Security Council.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin approved the appointment, and a presidential decree is expected to confirm it "at any moment," said Kharmalov, who heads a working group on the creation of the Joint Commission, which is charged with negotiating a permanent peace in the region.

The warring sides in Chechnya signed an agreement in August providing for Russian troop withdrawal and postponing the decision on Chechnya's status for five years.

They later agreed to set up a joint commission that will deal with most aspects of peace settlement, including post-war restoration.

Meanwhile, Chechen sources told Interfax on Wednesday that Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has been appointed prime minister of Chechnya's coalition government. Maskhadov will take up his new position "within the next few days, while retaining his post of defense minister," Interfax quoted the unnamed sources as saying.

The coalition government is a separate entity from the Joint Commission, but it is also part of the peace deal and its composition has been the subject of much negotiation for weeks.

A Russian parliamentary delegation returned from talks with Chechen separatists Wednesday, bringing detailed cooperation proposals from rebel leaders.

Deputy speaker of the State Duma, Mikhail Gutseriyev, said the separatists avoided the thorny issue of Chechnya's political status and their own independence demands.

"Most separatists believe that it is premature to discuss these problems, and I fully share this opinion,'' he told Itar-Tass following talks in Nazran, the capital of the republic of Ingushetia that borders on Chechnya.

Gutseriyev said he brought an official letter from Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev addressed to the Russian government and parliament and describing plans for cooperation in the military, economic and political spheres over the next five to 10 years.

Despite progress with the peace agreement and troop withdrawal, expected to be completed by year's end, there are daily reports of minor clashes in Chechnya.

Some impatient rebels appear to have increased shooting attacks so as to speed up the Russian pullout.

The federal military command said two Russian servicemen were wounded in Grozny on Tuesday night.

The peace plan, worked out by Russia's national security chief Alexander Lebed, has drawn protests in Moscow, where politicians are concerned it would eventually lead to the country's disintegration.

Officials also are concerned about rebel plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections no later than next January.

Nikolai Ryabov, head of Russia's Central Election Commission, said Wednesday any elections at this point cannot be considered free and democratic, and would only come to legitimize the rebel regime, Interfax reported. ()