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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Peace Deal Reported on Web

According to a web site of pro-Moscow Chechens, the Kremlin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov are negotiating a cease-fire and the formation of a coalition government that would include champions of Chechnya's independence.

Newspapers also have been full of reports that Maskhadov is pushing for a peace accord and may even be on the verge of surrendering.

The Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, however, said Maskhadov's peace rhetoric is a bluff. Speaking on ORT television Thursday evening, he cited what he called an intercepted telephone conversation between Maskhadov and his foreign minister in which the two discussed the need to carry on with "making [peace] declarations" while having Chechen rebels continue to "slaughter" federal troops.

The site - reported to represent Bislan Gantamirov, who heads a pro-Moscow Chechen militia - said Wednesday that the two sides have reached agreement on the composition of a new Chechen government in which the seats will be split evenly between Moscow's Chechen loyalists, Russian officials and Maskhadov's representatives.

The site also quoted an unidentified source in Maskhadov's staff as saying that the Kremlin has agreed that this former Soviet army colonel will remain Chechnya's president and those rebels who have not taken part in terrorist acts will be granted amnesty.

In exchange, Chechen rebels will release all federal troops they have captured and all but their commanders will have to surrender their arms, according to the site.

Maskhadov and the Kremlin have yet to agree, however, on Chechnya's future status and the deployment of federal troops, the site said. The Kremlin has made it clear that Chechnya will have to remain part of Russia.

President-elect Vladimir Putin has been careful not to rule out talks with Maskhadov. Putin has even said that the presidential Security Council received a peace plan from Maskhadov and sent it back with its own amendments. Putin also has said that Maskhadov would be eligible for amnesty.

At the same time, Putin has stated that peace talks with Maskhadov would be possible only if his fighters surrender, release hostages and turn over Chechen-trained terrorists blamed for the deadly apartment blasts last autumn.

Independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said it was possible that peace talks are going on between the Kremlin and Maskhadov. But although the two sides may eventually compromise on both Chechnya's status and the federal military presence to sign a peace deal, this will not end fighting, he said.

A lasting truce is possible only if federal troops withdraw from southern and central Chechnya to be positioned north of the Terek River, he said.

"The level of mutual hatred is very high ... and Chechens will continue fighting a guerrilla war unless there is a disengagement" across the Terek River, Felgenhauer said in a telephone interview.

He said Maskhadov controls only his own supporters and most Chechen warlords will disobey his commands if they find them to be "improper," such as to stop fighting without a withdrawal of federal troops.

Relations between Maskhadov and field commanders such as Shamil Basayev and Khattab have become so strained that the Chechen president may indeed flee the republic and surrender, according to Felgenhauer.

Segodnya cited unidentified sources in the secret services as saying that Maskhadov may flee to Moscow and surrender to Putin "in the nearest future" in exchange for having the charges of armed mutiny against him dropped.

In an interview published Thursday by Novaya Gazeta, Maskhadov confirmed that he is ready to negotiate with Moscow.