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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Marks One Year of Peace

With the sacrifice of sheep and traditional dances, Chechens on Tuesday celebrated the first anniversary of their peace treaty with Russia, and Chechnya's leader said the agreement had let the breakaway region run its own affairs.

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, speaking on television Monday night, said last year's treaty amounted to "de facto recognition of Chechnya's political independence.''

Thousands of people gathered Tuesday at a rally in the Chechen capital, Grozny, much of which remains in ruins following the 1994-96 war with Russian forces. The celebrants watched a military parade and then marked the occasion by sacrificing sheep and dancing the ritual zikr, a Chechen circle dance.

President Boris Yeltsin and Maskhadov signed the peace treaty on May 12, 1997, to formally end the devastating war that had been launched by the Kremlin to subdue the Moslem republic's independence bid.

The peace treaty said the parties agreed "to reject forever the use of force or threat of force in resolving all matters of dispute'' and "to develop their relations on generally recognized principles and norms of international law.''

Maskhadov's government has used the treaty to argue that Chechnya already is independent. "The treaty is viewed throughout the world as a document on relations between states,'' Maskhadov said at Tuesday's rally, Interfax reported.

But no nation has yet recognized Chechnya's independence, and Maskhadov acknowledged that the "building of an independent Islamic state remains our main goal.''

Despite the formal end of hostilities, the southern republic has remained restive, plagued by a wave of kidnappings and other crime that has spilled into neighboring Russian regions.

Earlier this month, Yeltsin's envoy to Chechnya, Valentin Vlasov, was kidnapped at gunpoint in the most high-profile abduction so far. No one has claimed responsibility or posed any demands. Maskhadov has pledged to help free Vlasov. The Chechen leader said the kidnappers acted "in order to bring us into deadlock and ruin peace.''