FEATURE ARTICLE  
   

An End to the Onslaught

A train loaded with Russian military equipment pulled out of rebel Chechnya November 30th as Moscow's last troops in the war-torn region prepared to leave. Chechen fighters cheered as the train, loaded with tanks and other equipment, rumbled slowly out of the Khankala base near Grozny and toward the Russian heartland. "In 1994, Dzhokhar Dudayev said the Russians would ask us for a corridor so they could leave in safety, and now they are leaving," said one smiling Chechen fighter. Former leader of the breakaway republic, Dudayev was killed in a Russian rocket attack in April this year. Children standing near the side of the tracks shouted the traditional Islamic battlecry, "Allahu Akbar" as the train moved off.

These events took place only one week after Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chechen interim premier Aslan Maskhadov signed an accord on relations between Russia and Chechnya. After the signing, Chernomyrdin said "today we reached the next stage of peaceful resolution of the conflict and step-by-step we are advancing". At that time, Chernomyrdin stated that an order by President Boris Yeltsin to withdraw all Russian troops from Chechnya - a key demand of the Chechens - had been made "so that there would be no speculation" on the issue.

The accord is planned to cover relations between Moscow and Grozny up to the January 27 elections in Chechnya, when the current interim leadership, dominated by independence figures, is expected tobe elected.


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