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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Joint Commission Convenes To Discuss Chechnya MIAs

GROZNY -- A joint Russian-Chechen commission convened Thursday and worked to resolve the problem of soldiers and civilians who remain unaccounted for after the 20-month war.

The Russian side claims Chechnya is holding 1,346 Russian soldiers and civilians prisoner, while the Chechen side has a list of 1,447 Chechens held by Russia, Interfax said.

Both sides deny they hold that number of prisoners, and many of the missing are presumed dead and buried somewhere in Chechnya.

About 440 unidentified bodies remain in a Russian military morgue in the southern city of Rostov.

General Vladimir Zolotaryov, the top Russian on the commission, provided the Chechen side with a list of Chechens whose whereabouts had been established.

The commission took no specific decisions on its first meeting but the sides agreed to open a special laboratory to accelerate exhumation and identification of bodies buried during the war.

In other news from Chechnya, recently elected President Aslan Maskhadov has appointed the ministers to his new cabinet, and it will include several men from rival political factions, Russian news agencies reported.

Maskhadov, who won a landslide victory in January, also issued a decree ordering the formation of a national guard in the breakaway southern republic, Itar-Tass reported Wednesday.

The national guard will include the "most active participants'' in the 1994 to 1996 war with Russia, the decree said. The move is aimed at bringing the numerous armed groups in Chechnya into "peacetime structures.''

Maskhadov, who also holds the post of prime minister, appointed a number of political rivals to his cabinet, Interfax said.

Aslanbek Ismailov, who was named Construction Minister, is a senior member of the faction led by ex-rebel leader Shamil Basayev, the man who finished second in the presidential poll.