Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 42

Former Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev denied on November 15 reports that he had been offered the job of special presidential representative for national issues in the North Caucasus. “I learned of this from media reports,” Interfax quoted him as saying. “No one has offered me anything; all the more, no one has talked with me on that subject.”

The story was first reported on November 13 by the pro-separatist Kavkazcenter website, which cited unnamed “sources in Moscow” as saying that the Kremlin was considering the possibility of appointing Aushev to the special representative post with the task of establishing contacts with “moderate Chechen separatists” and bringing them into “the political process in Chechnya.” Noting that Aushev has supported talks between the Kremlin and Chechen separatist leader and former president Aslan Maskhadov, Kavkazcenter said this idea remains unacceptable to President Vladimir Putin. However, the website cited “sources close to the Kremlin” as saying the presidential administration would like to see Aushev as an alternative to the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committees of Russia, which recently formed the United People’s Party of Soldiers’ Mothers and has suggested to Chechen rebel representatives that it serve as a mediator in talks with federal authorities (see story below).

According to Kavkazcenter, the Kremlin is convinced that the London-based exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky is behind the Soldiers’ Mothers group’s mediation offer, seeing it as a way to make propaganda at Putin’s expense. The website claimed the Federal Security Service (FSB) was behind the idea of recruiting Aushev, with the idea of using his authority in the North Caucasus to cause splits in the ranks of the Chechen separatists and their leadership. “It remains unclear whether Aushev will agree to play the role of the Putin clique’s fig leaf and how actively he is willing to be involved in the FSB’s latest combination,” Kavkazcenter wrote in its November 13 report.

The Kavkazky Uzel website on November 15 quoted Ramzan Abdulatipov, the former Russian nationalities minister who currently sits in the Federation Council, as telling Ekho Moskvy radio that he doubted the Kavkazcenter report about Aushev, given that the powers-that-be tend to prefer “grey” and “colorless” figures. “Aushev is a person with his own position, and they will not send such a person to the Caucasus,” Abdulatipov said.