In an extraordinary sign of the Russian military's unhappiness with its mission in the rebellious republic of Chechnya, the commander of a tank division halted his advance about 20 miles from the rebel capital and promised local villagers that he would not go any farther.

Maj. Gen. Ivan Babichev told weeping Chechen women: "It is forbidden to use the army against peaceful civilians. It is forbidden to shoot at the people."There were other signs Friday in Moscow and Grozny, the Chechen capital, that both sides are under heavy pressure to find a peaceful way out of the conflict. It is an open question what would happen if the Russian commanders were ordered to attack.

In what he described as a good-will gesture, the leader of the secessionist Chechen republic, Dzhokhar Dudayev, said he had ordered his troops to withdraw one kilometer, about half a mile, from the front line and to stop firing at Russian troops.

And Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin said he would personally head a negotiating team to resolve the conflict, promising to meet Dudayev "anywhere, anytime."

Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai N. Yegorov, who has been President Boris Yeltsin's representative at the military command post in Mozdok in North Ossetia, was recalled to Moscow Friday night to attend an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to examine the Chechen crisis.

Yeltsin's decision Sunday to send hundreds of tanks and tens of thousands of troops to bring Chechyna to heel was not a popular one, particularly in the Defense Ministry. Two of the leading figures in the Russian military, Gen. Boris V. Gramov and Lt. Gen. Alexander I. Lebed, have spoken out against the invasion.

Dissension among officers involved in ground operations spilled out in public Friday. In a remarkable display of compassion - and possible insubordination - Babichev hugged weeping Chechen women in the village of Novo-Shurvoi, about 20 miles from Grozny, and assured them that he would not advance on the capital or fire upon their sons.

Babichev had stopped his column's advance in the area after unarmed civilians bodily blocked his tanks. Friday, as a Reuters TV crew filmed the scene, the officer said he did not think that he was disobeying orders.

"Why should I be fired?" he asked. "Article five of the president's decree says that we shouldn't shoot at civilians or send our tanks against civilians."

Next to him a colonel was equally moved by the appeals of pleading villagers who said, "Please don't kill our sons."

The colonel replied: "It is not our fault we are here. We are not going to attack people with our tanks. Let us solve this together."

In Moscow, Defense Ministry spokesmen said they were aware of the officers' comments but declined to make any of their own.

The Kremlin, unhappy about the unflattering press coverage of the Chechen conflict, complained about "unreliable" news reports by Russian and Western journalists and threatened to withdraw the license of the independent television news channel NTV, whose broadcasts from Chechnya have angered high-ranking Yeltsin officials.

Even after Yeltsin decided to postpone a final assault on Grozny on Dec. 15, the date he had set as the deadline for Chechen forces to lay down their arms, criticism of the president did not abate.

Yeltsin, who is under attack from both the right and the left in Russia, received a small boost from Vice President Al Gore, who while in Moscow to discuss economic issues, repeated that Washington looked upon Chechnya as an "internal Russian affair."