On April 18, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, Boris Berezovsky, held talks with Chechen first deputy premier Shamil Basaev. During the meeting, the question of releasing the Russian journalists and the payment by Moscow of monetary compensation to Chechnya for the material and moral damages it suffered during the course of military operations were both discussed. (NTV, April 20)
This meeting was significant in at least two ways. It was Basaev’s first meeting as an official representative of Chechnya with a representative of the Russian government, and the very fact that the meeting took place suggests that Moscow may be preparing to make serious concessions to Djohar-gala. Basaev is notorious in Russia as the leader of the June 1995 hostage-taking in Budennovsk. Unlike most other Chechen resistance leaders, Basaev was not covered by the Duma’s amnesty and is, as a result, still a wanted criminal in Russia. His recent appointment as first deputy premier was seen by many observers as likely to exacerbate Russian-Chechen relations. It was assumed that the Kremlin’s representatives would not sit at the negotiating table with Basaev. In an interview with Itar-Tass, Berezovsky called his talks with Basaev constructive. (NTV, April 20)
Another sign that Moscow may be preparing to compromise is the fact that the Kremlin agreed to discuss the question of monetary compensation to Chechnya. Until now, Moscow had insisted that there could be no talk of monetary compensation and that, if Djohar-gala insisted on it, Moscow, in turn, would demand compensation from the Chechen government for the damage caused during the terrorist acts in Budennovsk and Kizlyar.
Threat of Ethnic Conflict in Dagestan.