De-militarization of Grozny Continues

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GROZNY, Russia: Thousands of weary Russian soldiers continued their withdrawal from the Chechen capital of Grozny Thursday, and on the other side of the city, about 1,900 jubilant rebels pulled out as well. The withdraw could be complete as early as Saturday, barring any new violence or other delays. The Chechens also returned 16 Russian prisoners of war. The pullout is taking place under the terms of an agreement brokered last week by security chief Alexander Lebed, and rebel forces are also supposed to withdraw from some areas of the city. Lebed, who is in Moscow after briefing Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on his progress in Chechnya, hoped to meet with Boris Yeltsin, but the President snubbed him and left for vacation instead. Yeltsin has reviewed a written report from Lebed, but has not yet commented on its merits. Yeltsin two weeks ago gave the former general sweeping authority over federal forces in Chechnya, where Muslim-led rebels have recently gained the upper hand in their 20-month battle for independence. -->