Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 224

Russian president Boris Yeltsin reportedly has already decided when he will visit Chechnya, but does not intend to announce the date at this time. So far, Yeltsin has told the press only that he will travel to Chechnya in January. During the visit Yeltsin intends to concentrate on financial issues and the restoration of the Chechen economy. But it is clear that Yeltsin’s political goal is to offer a show of support to President Aslan Maskhadov, so that, in Yeltsin’s own words, the "idea of seceding from Russia will gradually fade into the background." State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev also intends to lead a parliamentary delegation to Chechnya at the beginning of next year. (Itar-Tass, November 28, Kommersant-daily, November 29)

There is some doubt as to whether such visits will contribute to keeping Chechnya within the Russian Federation; the harder Moscow tries to present the Chechen president as an opponent of secession, the more likely Maskhadov is to feel obliged to assure his compatriots that he remains faithful to the cause of independence. The Chechen leadership sees Yeltsin’s visit as a positive step that could lead to the signing of a comprehensive treaty between Russia and Chechnya.

Indeed, regardless of the goals set by the two sides for the trip, it is hard to overestimate the significance of Yeltsin’s visit to Chechnya. It will give the Russian president an opportunity to demonstrate the importance he attaches to the North Caucasus issue. And the Chechen authorities, by receiving the Russian president, will also strengthen their own position at home. That is important because, despite official claims to the contrary, there are obvious splits in the republic’s leadership and, strange as it may seem, it is those who have pursued partnership with Russia who carry the most weight in Chechnya. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 29)

Russian Authorities Arrests American on Espionage Charge.