The Chechen rebels who had been holding more than 1,500 hostages in a hospital in Budyonnovsk have released their prisoners and are heading home. More than 150 people volunteered to go along as human shields to insure the rebels' safety as the Chechens departed in a bus convoy. The gunmen agreed to release the hostages after Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomydrin, in a series of dramatic televised telephone negotiations with rebel leader Shamil Basayev, agreed todeclare a ceasefire in Chechnya, resume peace talks and give the gunmen safe passage home. The normally reticent Chernomyrdin surprised many with his decisive action. The government had endured a firestorm of criticism overPresident Boris Yeltsin's decision to attend the G-7 meeting rather than stay to deal with the crisis. The just-released hostages were especially angered by Yeltsin's order to use force against the terrorists. More than 100 hostages were killed by Russian soldiers during attacks on the hospital.