Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 14
The March 26 issue of the newspaper Kommersant featured an interview with retired MVD general Aslambek Aslakhanov, the elected representative from Chechnya to the Russian State Duma. On March 23, Aslakhanov chaired a conference of the Union for the Rebirth of Peace and Accord in Chechnya aimed at preparing the holding in May of this year of a Chechen National Congress. The congress is to be held on the territory of the Chechen Republic and will include one representative for each 5,000 residents. Present and former national minorities–“Russians, Armenians, Jews, Ingush, Dagestanis”–will be represented at the congress. Leading Russian officials–such as Vladimir Elagin, Akhmad Kadyrov and Stanislav Il’yasov–will be invited to the congress, which will “prepare a program for the restoration of Chechnya in its entirety.”
During the interview, Aslakhanov stressed his strong opinion that delegates from the separatists should also participate in the congress. This will happen, he said, if the Russian power ministries agree to provide separatist delegates with security guarantees. Aslakhanov is currently writing a letter to President Putin on this question. He has also been in contact with Aslan Maskhadov concerning the congress. He received a letter from Maskhadov several days previously: “[Maskhadov] asks to arrange a meeting with the leadership of the country, and he guarantees that this meeting will bring peace to much-suffering Chechnya. If Maskhadov gives such guarantees, what hinders us from meeting with him?” When order is finally restored in Chechnya–and not before–Aslakhanov said, then new elections can be held in the republic.
Writing in the March 23 issue of Strana.ru, commentator Valentina Kalmykova observed: “The federal side is supporting the idea of the conducting of [Aslakhanov’s] congress not by accident. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has already raised the question of conducting free elections in Chechnya and plans to hold hearings on that theme at its summer session. They are preparing for Chechen elections in the Kremlin as well. And that means that on the agenda is a quest for candidates for power in the republic. And although the question of a popular [Chechen] leader, as Aslakhanov assures us, will not be raised at the congress, the forum will nonetheless help Moscow to define itself with regard to possible candidates among whom, evidently, is the initiator of the present congress [Aslakhanov].”
One element of Aslakhanov’s plan appeared, however, to be unacceptable to the Russian president. On March 29, Putin’s official spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, flatly rejected an appeal by the Russian National Committee “For the Ending of War and the Establishment of Peace in the Chechen Republic”-whose members include Duma deputies Sergei Kovalev, Sergei Yushenkov, and Yuly Rybakov, as well as President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia-to begin negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov (Russian agencies, March 29).