Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 6

The Moscow weekly Novoye vremya (New Time) recently published a strikingly candid interview with Ruslan Aushev, former president of Ingushetia and now head of the committee for veterans’ affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Referring to Aslan Maskhadov as “the legally elected president” of Chechnya, Aushev said that a proper Chechen referendum would let voters choose freely among three options: declaring the republic to be an independent state, or a republic with broad autonomy within the Russian Federation, or a regular “subject” (province) of the Federation. Aushev himself, he said, favors the second of these three.

“Everyone from the president on down must understand the most important point, which is that 99 percent of Chechens are now against the federal center,” Aushev said. “How can you build a state when nobody trusts you? Today there is not one family in Chechnya that has not suffered during these seven years…Before we entered Afghanistan in 1980, we had normal relations with the Afghans. By the time we left, 99 percent of them hated us.”

Recalling his years as head of Ingushetia, Aushev told the weekly that he had been accused of being a “traitor” for having refused to allow Ingush territory to be used as a base from which to bomb or shell Chechnya.