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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Ready to Get Rid Of Army

Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov said Tuesday he was ready to stand down most of his rebel army following the peace deal he signed with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Monday, a Russian news agency said.

The RIA agency quoted Maskhadov telling Chechen community leaders in Moscow that after the deal, under which both leaders pledged never again to resort to force, he now had "carte blanche" to concentrate on the region's many internal problems, notably cracking down on armed bandits and gangs of kidnappers.

"Before signing the treaty he [Maskhadov] could not stand down the lines and armed units of the Chechen army," RIA said. "But now ... he can fully concentrate on internal Chechen issues."

RIA quoted Maskhadov as saying he would retain only a national guard and that this would be confined to barracks.

Despite a cease-fire in August and the withdrawal of the troops Yeltsin sent to crush the region's independence drive in December 1994, Maskhadov had maintained his forces.

The treaty avoided defining whether Chechnya was independent or a region of the Russian Federation. Under the cease-fire terms, that key issue was put on ice until 2001.

But Moscow did commit to building relations with Chechnya "in accordance with ... the norms of international law" -- a phrase the Chechens seem happy to present to their domestic audience as a recognition of independence.

Boris Berezovsky, deputy secretary of the Kremlin Security Council who helped draft the treaty, said Tuesday there was no question of Chechnya seceding. But the deal did aim to shore up Maskhadov's authority against hard-line secessionist groups.

Berezovsky told a briefing organized by Interfax that Maskhadov had been in "a tight corner," between Moscow and hard-line rebel commanders.

The treaty, plus a range of economic accords reached Monday, have now given Maskhadov considerable room for maneuver and Berezovsky said he believed Maskhadov would be able, for example to secure the release of Russian captives in Chechnya.

Asked if he expected Maskhadov to continue pushing for outright secession Berezovsky said: "Maskhadov well understands the realities."

The Chechen and Russian positions were sharply divided but "a whole host" of compromises were now possible, he said.

"We need a stable Chechnya," Berezovsky, a business magnate, said. "For that we need to pay. And we will pay."