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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rybkin Says Hawks Put Chechen Peace at Risk

The same forces that provoked war between Moscow and Chechnya in 1994 are trying to rekindle the conflict, the top Russian official dealing with the region said Friday.

Ivan Rybkin, secretary of the advisory Security Council, said Moscow had failed to deliver on its postwar promises to help rebuild Chechnya, where tens of thousands of people were killed and homes, schools, hospitals and factories destroyed.

"I think this is our biggest mistake so far, our most serious political sin," Rybkin said at a news conference.

"I think we will regret it later because those who brought Russia to the abyss once, in 1994, are trying do it again now," he said.

Rybkin did not pinpoint who the warmongers were, but made clear he thought blame lay on both sides.

This appeared to include Russia's hawkish interior minister, Anatoly Kulikov, who called last month for "preventive strikes" against Chechen "bandits."

"I wouldn't like to use such words as 'the war lobby' but objectively, wittingly or unwittingly, when people ... call for all sorts of strikes and for expulsion of Chechnya from the Russian Federation, they don't know what they are doing," Rybkin said.

Chechnya's deputy prime minister, Movladi Udugov, also came under fire from Rybkin for calling for Russia to withdraw completely from all of its north Caucasus republics.

Although many of the republics in the region are often restive, a break from Moscow is highly unlikely.

In an effort to further strengthen ties with the Caucasus republics and to discuss the Chechnya issue, President Boris Yeltsin is due to meet with the North Caucasus Council of Elders on Feb. 23, council Secretary Sergei Tokhtabeyev said Friday, Interfax reported.

The main purpose of the meeting is "to liberate people's hearts and minds from the war bacillus and establish peace and good neighborliness in the Caucasus," Tokhtabeyev was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Rybkin is one of a group of Russian officials who believe Moscow can buy the loyalty of Chechens and prevent the region, which already acts as if it is independent, from breaking away altogether.

He rejected a call by Udugov for a final political settlement to be signed this year rather than waiting until 2001 as agreed in a compromise peace deal signed in 1996.

A German businessman abducted last year in Chechnya was released by his captors Friday, German criminal investigators said.

The Federal Criminal Office said in a statement Klaus Schmuck had been kidnapped in August 1997 with a Yugoslav business partner, Stanimir Petrovic.

A spokesman declined to comment on whether a ransom had been paid.