Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 39

In an interview published on October 23, the former president of Ingushetia sharply questioned Akhmad Kadyrov’s legitimacy. “Nothing has been changed” by Chechnya’s recent presidential election, Ruslan Aushev told Andrei Riskin of Nezavisimaya gazeta. “The republic has already gone through all this sort of thing. In 1995 they elected Zavgaev as president, they elected a parliament, they even signed a treaty. I just don’t understand why the election of Kadyrov should be considered a step toward a political settlement of the conflict….A referendum and elections should unite the people, but the people there [in Chechnya] are becoming ever more divided.”

Aushev, who fought as a Soviet general in Afghanistan and who now heads a committee for veterans’ affairs under the Commonwealth of Independent States, also criticized Kadyrov’s trial balloon of a union between Chechnya and Ingushetia (see Chechnya Weekly, October 16). “This is not Kadyrov’s idea, he can’t even cope with the problems of his own republic,” he said. “This is an idea of the federal center.”

Asked to comment on the proposal to bring UN peacekeeping troops into Chechnya, Aushev chose neither to reject nor to endorse it. “One can suggest many options,” he answered, “but the present course is leading into a dead end….The time is approaching when the other large countries will conclude that they are fed up with the conflict in southern Russia; they will begin to act as they did in Yugoslavia. It will get to the point where we lose not only the Caucasus, but the whole South of the country….But it’s senseless to hope that perhaps the Chechens will solve things themselves.”

Aushev was equally scornful of the idea of a free economic zone for Chechnya: “An offshore zone is workable only in a situation of peace….What normal businessman would invest there today?”

“We must speak the truth,” he concluded. “If the populace did not support the guerrillas, they would be isolated, they would not be allowed into villages, would not be getting material support. A guerrilla war is the toughest kind of military operation, as the Germans discovered in Russia, and also Napoleon’s troops and the Americans in Iraq–and we ourselves in Afghanistan. We seemed to occupy the whole country, but we really controlled only 20 percent of its territory, all the rest was behind the mujahadeen. You need two things for victory–resources and a goal. The Chechens lack resources, but they have a goal. The Russian army has neither resources nor a goal.”