Chechen internal affairs minister Kazbek Makhashev stated yesterday for the first time that the two women being held on suspicion of involvement in the Pyatigorsk bombing, in which two people were killed and 50 were injured, are indeed the two women previously identified by Russian interior minister Anatoly Kulikov. Earlier, the Chechen authorities had denied that the two women — 33-year-old Fatima Taimaskhanova of Argun and 23-year-old Aiset Dadasheva from the village of Dachubrzoi — were connected with the blast in any way. This position was also supported by Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin during his visit to Djohar-gala last week. Now Makhashev says that the two women may indeed have been in Pyatigorsk at the time of the bombing. (Itar-Tass, NTV, May 4)
The situation was further confused when maverick Chechen field commander Salman Raduev announced over the weekend that last month’s bombs in Armavir and Pyatigorsk were planted on his personal orders and that his men are planning a fresh terrorist act for this week. (NTV, May 4) Raduev also claimed responsibility for the April 27 demolition of an artillery supply depot near the town of Bira in the Jewish Autonomous oblast. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, May 5. See Monitor, April 30)
Raduev’s assertion that the terrorist acts were carried out under his direction was met with skepticism in Moscow, where some saw his claims as an attempt to increase his popularity among a certain section of the Chechen population. There was general agreement, however, that what was important was the fact that the Maskhadov leadership now has no interest in the organization of terrorist acts. Such acts, and the fact that they are going unpunished, are an embarrassment to Djohar-gala because they suggest that the authorities are not in control of the situation in the republic. Circumstances will become further complicated if it is proven convincingly that Chechens were behind the bombing in Pyatigorsk. Then the question will arise: if Djohar-gala is not in control of the situation, what point is there in negotiating with the Chechen authorities?
Questions such as these could derail the scheduled meeting of the Chechen and Russian presidents. (NTV, May 4) The recent terrorist acts and Raduev’s threats are likely to be exploited by those Russian leaders who oppose a peace settlement. The Yeltsin team might even decide that it would not be beneficial for Yeltsin’s political image for him to meet with Maskhadov at this time. And, if the meeting does take place, the parties may limit themselves to purely declarative statements. This analysis was borne out by a statement from Yeltsin’s adviser on ethnic relations, Emil Pain, who warned over the weekend against expecting a speedy settlement to the Chechen situation. (Radio Mayak, May 2)
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