In early August, Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister in the underground separatist government of Aslan Maskhadov, finally won his long quest for permanent political asylum in the United States. The final breakthrough came with a decision by the U.S. government’s executive branch not to appeal an April 2004 decision by a Boston immigration court granting asylum to Akhmadov.
That breakthrough was welcomed by the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, whose executive director Glen Howard said on August 5 that “the fact that the U.S. government did not oppose the immigration decision, which had rejected unsubstantiated allegations by the Russian government, is a strong affirmation of the long held position of the opposition government that a peaceful solution is in the best interests of all parties in this long-standing dispute.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, chairman of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, said “the grant of asylum and the award of the NED fellowship should be helpful in the peaceful settlement of the tragic Russian violence against Chechnya.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry, by contrast, sharply criticized the decision, stating that “such acts do not correspond to the friendly spirit of Russian-American relations, and do not help the joint fight against international terrorism.” But an August 10 editorial in the Washington Post responded that “contrary to Russia’s accusations, the decision does not represent any radical change in Russian-American relations: No one, anywhere, is advocating any active American military or even political intervention in Chechnya. That doesn’t mean, however, that the U.S. government needs to agree with every piece of Russian propaganda about the region, or, more important, to alter American laws on political asylum in accordance with Russia’s demands.”