For the third consecutive day, members of the Chechen delegation have been unable to fly to The Hague, where they are supposed to be taking part in an international conference on Chechnya. On May 20, the Chechen delegation was stopped by Russian fighter jets on Russia’s southern border, but that incident was ironed out and the delegation traveled to Odessa, from which they were supposed to fly to The Hague on May 22. That flight was postponed at the request of the Chechen delegation, however. "The Chechen side sees the historic [May 12] treaty [between Russia and Chechnya] as de jure recognition of our independence. Since we are a state delegation, we can no longer permit ourselves to use Russian passports," said delegation member Ruslan Chimaev.
The Chechen delegation hoped that Russia would give them old-model foreign passports stamped with the Soviet hammer and sickle. Most residents of the former Soviet Union still travel on such passports. But officials in Moscow, with unaccustomed promptness, dispatched new Russian passports, with the double-headed eagle stamped on the cover, to Odessa. The Chechens are now hoping that the Netherlands — which, like the rest of the world, does not recognize Chechen passports printed in 1993 — will meet them halfway. Otherwise, the Hague conference will open without its main participants. Only one member of the delegation has an old-style foreign passport and, if worse comes to worst, he will have to represent Chechnya alone. (NTV, Interfax, May 22)
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