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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Panel Plans Grozny Meeting In Advance of Yeltsin's Visit

Russia's state commission set up to solve the Chechen conflict decided Tuesday to meet in the rebel region, clearly paving the way for a visit by President Boris Yeltsin to the capital, Grozny.

A close Yeltsin aide said the Kremlin leader's widely anticipated peace mission to Chechnya would be considered by his policy-making Security Council on Wednesday.

The secretary of Yeltsin's Chechnya commission said its next meeting would be in Grozny early next month, according to Interfax. Itar-Tass had said the meeting was planned for next Tuesday. Commission secretary Sergei Stepashin, who played a leading role in planning and launching the 17-month-old Chechen campaign as the then Federal Security Service chief, told Itar-Tass: "The president's visit to Chechnya is likely to take place after the State Commission's meeting in Chechnya."

It was unclear whether Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who heads the commission, would attend, Stepashin added.

Yeltsin, facing a strong challenge from Communist Gennady Zyuganov in presidential polls on June 16, has said settling the Chechen conflict was crucial to his re-election hopes.

He also said he would go to Grozny because he was the only person who could restart peace negotiations in Chechnya. He has faced harsh criticism for the campaign, in which more than 30,000 people have been killed.

But some top aides have expressed doubts about the visit.

"The president's desire is quite natural -- there are servicemen and voters in Chechnya," Itar-Tass quoted Defense Minister Pavel Grachev as saying.

"But I also agree with those ministers who say Boris Yeltsin should not go to Chechnya now for security reasons," he added referring to warnings from the counterintelligence service that the rebels were planning to assassinate the president.