Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 209

Chechen deputy president Vakha Arsanov, who is serving as acting president while Aslan Maskhadov is on vacation, has deplored the dismissal of Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky. (See yesterday’s Monitor) "It is good that [Security Council secretary Ivan] Rybkin is staying on. There are forces in Russia who want to destabilize the situation in the Northern Caucasus. These are the pro-Kulikov forces [a reference to Russian interior minister Anatoly Kulikov — Monitor]. We too will have to make corrections. We may include Raduev or Basaev in the negotiations…" Arsanov said. (Kommersant-daily, November 6)

Berezovsky was virtually the only person holding talks with the Chechens on the restoration of their devastated economy and the organization of cash and non-cash payments in Chechnya. He also participated in the negotiations on transporting Caspian Sea oil through Chechen territory. His name came up whenever hostages were taken in Chechnya. But Berezovsky’s relations with the Chechen authorities were not always cloudless. On August 21, Maskhadov said that if Moscow continued to drag its feet over a final treaty with Chechnya, "new middlemen, new Berezovskys, Avturkhanovs, and Zavgaevs" would appear [Avturkhanov and Zavgaev were leaders of the pro-Moscow Chechen government during the war — Monitor], and then there would be "no way to avoid trouble." What upset Grozny most was Berezovsky’s activities as an intermediary in releasing hostages: the Chechen authorities accused him of provoking a new wave of kidnappings by paying ransom for the ORT film crew — the first journalists taken hostage in Chechnya.

Arsanov’s statement nonetheless indicates that, overall, the Chechen authorities saw Berezovsky as an advocate of compromise. Arsanov’s threats to include well-known hard-liners such as Basaev and Raduev — seen in Moscow as terrorists — on the negotiating team can hardly be taken seriously. Arsanov has a penchant for making provocative statements, while Chechen first deputy premier Movladi Udugov has said that the firing of Berezovsky is Russia’s internal affair. This suggests that Berezovsky’s departure is likely to have little impact on Russia’s relations with Chechnya, a point of view that has been expressed in Russia’s Security Council. According to the council’s press secretary, Igor Ignatiev, "it will be hard to find a replacement for Berezovsky, but it can be done," and his departure will have no effect on the negotiation process with Grozny. (NTV, November 6)

Yeltsin Off to China for Talks with Jiang Zemin.