With less than a week before the deciding runoff presidential election, Russia began withdrawing troops today from the secessionist republic of Chechnya.
Soldiers from the 245th motorized rifle regiment began departing three days after President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree ordering the pullout. However, continuation of the withdrawal is contingent on success in peace efforts.Yeltsin, who is fighting a bitter battle to defeat his Communist challenger in Wednesday's vote, wants to show progress in ending the 18-month-old war, which has been a major political liability.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Zorin, the chairman of the state commission on the Chechen settlement, said there was an apparent assassination attempt against Doku Zavgayev, the Russian-installed leader of the region, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
Police and security officers spotted five bombs in Grozny, which were allegedly to be used to kill Zavgayev, the Interfax news agency said.
Russia has previously announced withdrawals, which later turned out to be regular troop rotations. Friday's departure, however, appeared to mark the beginning of a real withdrawal as the troops were dispatched to their permanent base in Moscow and not scheduled to be replaced.