Communists protest at Chechnya pull-out

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The Independent Online
The Kremlin was last night trying to defuse a political storm after its agreement to withdraw all its remaining troops from Chechnya prompted allegations that Russia's war there achieved nothing beyond a massive loss of life.

Infuriated by what they see as an admission of defeat at the hands of the Chechen separatists, Mr Yeltsin's Communist opponents are threatening to start impeachment proceedings, although they have almost no chance of success under the constitution.

The Kremlin announced that it was withdrawing the last two brigades from the republic before elections are held there in January. Although many Russians have welcomed the end of hostilities in Chechnya, many, including senior figures in the "power" ministries, vehemently oppose total withdrawal, arguing that that would leave an integral part of Russia entirely under the control of the separatist leadership. The Kremlin officially opposes Chechnya's secession, but complete troop withdrawal would mean its main influence over the region would become economic.

The leader of Russia's Communists, Gennady Zyuganov, yesterday accused Mr Yeltsin of treasonably plotting to break up the Russian Federation. He said an emergency meeting of parliament on Friday, called to discuss Chechnya, should discuss impeachment and a vote of no confidence.

n Russia's Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, flew to Paris for two days of talks on economic relations and said Russia would honour debts run up by the Tsarist government and later reneged on by Soviet Communists, though he said details had still to be worked out.

The creditors, many of whom live in France, are claiming some pounds 20bn. Asked if he intended to finalise an agreement to repay the debts while in France, Mr Chernomyrdin said: "We will, because we are Russia. We will pay all our debts."