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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed Says 80,000 Killed in Chechnya

Security chief Alexander Lebed said Tuesday that about 80,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed during the 21-month war in Chechnya, virtually tripling previous estimates of the carnage.


"One can estimate that about 80,000 people have died, plus or minus 10,000," Lebed said at a Moscow press conference, just days after he signed a peace deal that he claimed had ended the war. "For every person dead there are three more who are injured."


Not even the government has exact figures for the number of people who have died during the war, but previously the most quoted figure had been 30,000 dead, while some human rights organizations had put it as high as 60,000.


Officials for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe declined to comment on Lebed's figures when contacted Tuesday. ended the war, is served by the accepted figure being high. President Boris Yeltsin, who started the war, would be favored by a lower one.


Meanwhile, recently appointed Defense Minister Igor Rodionov issued his own statistics for casualties in Chechnya, stating that until Aug. 30, there had been 2,837 registered fatalities among Russian army troops serving in the republic.


Rodionov said an additional 337 soldiers are missing.


The federal troops in Chechnya are split in two frequently squabbling parts. Rodionov's figures appeared to account only for the army units, which answer to him, and not for troops answering to Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov.


Lebed also said Tuesday that he expects all Russian forces to be withdrawn completely from Chechnya within the next two months.


He gave few details on how this is to be accomplished, except to say that the process would be overseen by a temporary Chechnya legislative committee that includes delegates from both the federal and Chechen rebel sides.


"The process of demilitarization of Chechnya is off to a good start," Lebed said.


"Everybody is prepared for negotiations and everybody is tired of war. It has exhausted everyone."


But Lebed's authority to order a complete troop withdrawal is not clear.


Izvestia, in an article published Tuesday, wrote that Lebed can only order Rodionov to withdraw troops in accordance with a decree signed by Yeltsin on June 25.


That decree came as part of a Yeltsin campaign promise to end the war in Chechnya, and was quickly forgotten after his re-election one week later, when some of the worst fighting in the war was recorded.


However, two army divisions presently in Chechnya, the 205th and the 101st, are not covered by the June decree, according to Izvestia, and Lebed can only command their withdrawal if he receives a new directive from the president.


Interfax reported Tuesday that two Russian army divisions remain in Grozny, and the 101st is one of them.


Yeltsin, who is vacationing in a government hunting resort 125 kilometers northwest of Moscow, has so far refused to meet with his security adviser and has not yet given him any clear, public support. It is by no means certain that the president will underwrite any extra powers for Lebed.


While Lebed said he could not see why so much "fuss" was being made over the fact that Yeltsin has refused to see him, at times Tuesday he seemed almost defensive about his role in the Chechen peace negotiations.


At one point he held up a copy of Yeltsin's decree appointing Lebed as his official representative in Chechnya as proof that such a document exists.


"Here it is," said Lebed as photographers took aim. "This document exists and I act in accordance with its intent."


Lebed said he was surprised by politicians who frame him as a power-hungry presidential candidate, saying he felt his Chechnya mission was just getting started.


With a twinkle in his eye, the ex-paratrooper then invited diehard Russian federalists to visit the dusty Dagestan village in which he negotiated the political agreement with rebel chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov.


"I am for Russian integrity, but I don't support methods that have been used so far," Lebed said.


"But let those who have been so good at talking about Russian territorial integrity in Moscow, let them visit [Khasavyurt] and talk about it there."


Lebed then rounded off the discussion by taking a shot at Yeltsin's chief of staff Anatoly Chubais, the man some say stands directly between Yeltsin and the security council chairman.


"Chubais has just returned from vacation. I hear it's the 'velvet' season down south. I also go to the south from time to time," Lebed snickered. "I don't know what Chubais thinks about Chechnya."