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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

War's End Urged: Is Yeltsin Listening?

After Moscow's attempt to counter Chechen rebels in Pervomaiskoye with force failed, the only solution to the war in Chechnya is for the president to end it peacefully, analysts and democrats said Wednesday.

Whether President Boris Yeltsin is listening is another question.

Boris Nemtsov, the reformist governor of Niznhy Novgorod, warned Yeltsin in a meeting Monday that the war was having a serious effect on Russian politics and on the Yeltsin's own popularity, he told a press conference Wednesday in Moscow.

"I understand that geopolitically we cannot withdraw from the Caucasus, but I do not think that the Chechen war is a geopolitical issue," he said.

"The Chechen issue, I believe, is our internal Russian matter, and I simply would like to hear comprehensible words from the leadership, including the staff: What is to be done?"

Russia does have interests in the Caucasus, Nemtsov said, "but in order to shield these interests from damage, we should put an end to the Chechen war."

Nemtsov, who urged Yeltsin to withdraw Russian troops and resolve the conflict through negotiations, handed the president a petition, calling for an end to the war, signed by 1 million people in Niznhy Novgorod region.

Yegor Gaidar's party, Russia's Democratic Choice, announced it had joined Nemtsov's campaign to collect millions of signatures nationwide to press for Yeltsin to end a "senseless and criminal war."

"People can stop the war. They can force the authorities to take their opinion into consideration," it said in a statement Wednesday.

But Andrei Piontkowsky, an analyst at the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies, doubted that Nemtsov would have made a strong impression on Yeltsin. "People have been saying this for a year," he said.

As to what Yeltsin is planning to do, he said: "No one knows and Yeltsin does not even know himself. What we see is a daily reaction to events, there is no strategy."

Yeltsin's stance after Pervomaiskoye was that the strongest use of force was the way to deal with the Chechen rebels, Piontkowsky said. "Now it is clear to all, and to Yeltsin, that the only method of the army is to shell with Grads.

"It is clear that the army is only capable of that and Yeltsin has to understand that it does not bring a solution, it only encourages terrorism," he said.

But comments earlier this week by General Lev Rokhlin, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee and the general who led the successful capture of Grozny last year, show the military would still resist plans for a withdrawal.

It would make Chechnya a de facto sovereign country and could lead to the spread of arms from abroad through Chechnya into the rest of the northern Caucasus, Rokhlin said, according to Interfax.

Yeltsin's only other choice was a resumption of peace talks, started after the last hostage crisis of Budyonnovsk last June, Piontkowsky said. "And it has to be talks with those whom you are fighting," he said.

Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov said, in an interview with The Moscow Times last week, a peaceful solution was the only way to end the war.

But asked if there were signs of the Kremlin moving toward a resumption of talks, Piontkowsky said: "No one knows. We hope so."