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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Troops Face Down Anti-Russia Rallies


Russian armored vehicles advanced on a demonstration by supporters of rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev in the Chechen capital Monday, but the crowd dispersed without violence, news agencies said.

As many as 5,000 people demonstrated in front of the ruined presidential palace in Grozny, Interfax said. Many had arrived in buses and cars from other Chechen towns. It was the second rally in two days called to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region.

Itar-Tass said the armored vehicles had drawn up around the presidential palace, once the symbol of rebel resistance but now a burned-out shell testifying to Moscow's year-long battle with separatists.

But Interfax said later that most protesters, who were demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from their mostly Moslem region, had dispersed and no shots had been fired.

Russian television showed pictures of protesters massing in the capital in a display of anti-Russian feeling in the mountainous region, where full-scale fighting has stopped but a peace deal struck in July has never held.

The crowds waved green Islamic flags and carried portraits of Dudayev. Occasional single shots rang out and protesters shouted "Allahu Akbar'' and anti-Russian slogans through loudspeakers, Itar-Tass reported.

Pro-Moscow Chechen Security Council adviser Ruslan Tsakayev told Itar-Tass he did not exclude the possibility of "armed provocations" against government buildings in Grozny.

The Chechen government could ask Russian forces for help and a corresponding plan worked out, he said.

Itar-Tass said rebels armed with mortars had shown up at the government building. No independent confirmation was available.

President Boris Yeltsin is expected to announce a peace initiative this week to try to end the conflict, in which some 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed. No details have emerged yet about his blueprint, although a senior parliamentary official said last week it would put the accent on finding a peaceful settlement rather than on using military force.

On Monday, Yeltsin discussed the Chechen issue at separate meetings with Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, North Caucasus Military District Commander Anatoly Kvashin and State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, Interfax reported. No details were released.

Doku Zavgayev, the pro-Moscow leader in Chechnya, said last week a gradual pullout of Russian troops could start within two or three weeks.

But the commander of federal forces in the region said Saturday it was too early to talk about a deadline for the move which, if completed, would leave Zavgayev's armed police to face Dudayev's guerrillas.

Itar-Tass said talks were due to resume in eastern Chechnya on the release of 12 Russian police commandos who are still held hostage by Chechen guerrillas following a hostage-seizure in the Dagestan region last month.

NTV television reported Monday that Dudayev's military commander, Aslan Maskhadov, had ordered the unconditional release of 29 power workers seized in Grozny at the height of the crisis in Dagestan. ()