Chechnya: Yeltsin ready for dialogue. Russian President agrees to meet with the Chechen leader to Moscow.

Moscow, correspondence

Yeltsin agreed yesterday for the first time since the beginning of the war in Chechnya, direct talks with the leader of the Chechen separatist Zelimkhan Iandarbaïev in Moscow. The latter would have been “confirmed” agreed to this meeting. It said the Kremlin not to attempt to resolve the conflict could revive talks stalled since last fall. And also a good point for the head of the Russian state, candidate for his own succession to the presidential election on June 16

The two parties should meet “in the coming days” in Moscow, said Tim Guldimann, the head of the mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the Chechen capital, which served mediator to reach this agreement. But “the exact date is not announced for security reasons,” he added. Yeltsin, however, suggested that the Moscow meeting would precede his own movement in Chechnya. The statement of the OSCE representation reported a “prémliminaire agreement on the need to resume negotiations on the basis of the agreement for the peaceful settlement of the situation in the Republic.” Signed on July 30, following lengthy negotiations between Russians and Chechens, the text on military and not political issues had allowed relative peace by establishing a ceasefire. It also provided for a gradual withdrawal of Russian troops and the disarmament of combatants, both measures remained unfulfilled. At the time the two parties negotiating thanks to the use of their representatives had failed to reach an agreement on the status of the Republic, the separatists demanding full sovereignty that Moscow denies. The war had then taken in the fall, ending any dialogue.

So far, the Russian president had refused direct talks demanded by the separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, killed April 21 by a Russian rocket. And the coming to power of Zelimkhan Iandarbaïev, his successor at the irreducible independence reputation, left little hope for bending the Kremlin leader to refuse to talk to “bandits”. But with the approach of the first round of elections, Boris Yeltsin declared himself ready to meet “some officials separatists”.

As the Kremlin opts for conciliation, Russian troops announce overcoming the resistance of Bamut. For several days, helicopters succeed in pulling their rockets on the village became a symbol of the Chechen resistance. General Troshev, commander of the 58th army besieging the town for four days, announced yesterday that his troops were captured after taking strategic hills around. In seventeen months of the war, Bamut, though emptied of its inhabitants and reduced to ruins had never been taken by Russian forces. Yesterday, the separatists had planned to “leave the village” if it became too difficult to defend.