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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rybkin Parrots Chechnya Warning

The Yeltsin government's security chief, Ivan Rybkin, has added his voice to concerns over the likelihood of Chechnya's secession from Russia expressed by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

Moscow must "put brakes on that possible way of development of the Chechen republic," Rybkin told Interfax.

Primakov warned senior government ministers Thursday that a real danger existed that "Chechnya, de facto and de jure, will secede from Russia." He said that Russia should take action to prevent or cushion such a development.

The comments by two of Russia's top officials reveal concerns at the highest level over the likelihood that Chechnya will become independent in fact, even if Russia never consents to its legal independence.

In Chechnya, Shamil Basayev, the separatists' most popular field commander, revealed a growing rift between the leading candidates Thursday when he accused his rivals, including the Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev and the military commander Aslan Maskhadov, of turning their backs on the separatist fighters who helped them drive out Russian forces.

Addressing a campaign rally in Argun, east of Grozny, he said that the other Chechen leaders had surrounded themselves with supporters of Doku Zavgayev, the hated head of Chechnya's former pro-Moscow government.

"This policy could lead to war among ourselves because our fighters could explode," he told the rally, according to Reuters. "But," he added, "we are all tired of fighting."

Presidential and parliamentary elections due in the republic Jan. 27 are expected to bring to power a new government committed to the small Moslem republic's complete independence. All main candidates in the elections are known supporters of independence who headed the separatist leadership during Chechnya's vicious 21-month war against federal troops.

Rybkin, secretary of the Security Council, told Interfax that Chechnya was still a part of Russia's political and economic network "in spite of the wound inflicted [on it] by the war."

He said Russian ministries must remain in "daily contact" with their Chechen counterparts so that Chechnya was not pushed out of Russia's legal system. These contacts were already being maintained by the interior, finance and construction ministries, he added, as well as by the Pension Fund and the local administrations of Moscow and of regions bordering Chechnya. "Use of force is now out of date and productive negotiations are needed both with representatives of the Chechen Republic and Islamic countries," Rybkin said, adding that such talks could help to head off Chechen independence.

Primakov said Russia must establish contacts with the Organization of the Islamic Conference and with Chechen diaspora organizations. The Islamic Conference, with membership of many of the world's Moslem nations, is one of the most important international Islamic forums.

Primakov, voicing his concerns about Chechnya on Thursday, also referred to the position of ethnic Russians in former Soviet republics.

He told cabinet leaders that Russia should encourage ethnic Russians in the "near abroad" to remain there rather than coming to Russia. He cited the example of Germany, which encourages ethnic Germans scattered throughout Eastern Europe and the CIS not to claim their legal right to live in Germany.

Some 25 million ethnic Russians live outside Russia in former Soviet republics. Tens of thousands have come to Russia in the past five years because of difficult economic conditions and perceived anti-Russian sentiment in the newly independent republics.

Apart from the fact that Russia is too weak economically to support this influx, observers point out that Moscow can use ethnic Russians in the "near abroad" as leverage in its dealings with the republics.

?Unidentified kidnappers abducted two Orthodox priests including the doyen of Archangel Michael Church in Grozny, a representative of the Russian president in the Caucasus republic said Friday, cited by Itar-Tass.

The kidnappers seized Father Ephimi and his colleague on Thursday as they were on their way by car to a southern district of the city.