Chechen opposition leaders, who initially warned that Lebed’s dismissal could lead to a deterioration of the situation in the breakaway republic, reacted cautiously to news of Rybkin’s appointment. They welcomed Rybkin’s statement that he is committed to a peaceful settlement of the Chechen conflict, and said they were encouraged by his pledge not to try to revise the Khasavyurt accords signed in August by Lebed and Chechen chief-of-staff Aslan Maskhadov. Maskhadov himself reserved judgment, saying Rybkin would be judged by his deeds. (Itar-Tass, October 19) Predictably, Rybkin’s appointment was warmly welcomed by Chechnya’s pro-Russian leader, Doku Zavgaev, whom Lebed completely ignored. (ORT, October 20)
The Chechen opposition was also encouraged by a message delivered on October 19 by government official Sergei Stepashin on behalf of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In it, Chernomyrdin assured Chechen leaders that Russia would not return to the use of force in Chechnya. (Itar-Tass, October 19) They may have been less reassured by Chernomyrdin’s statement to a meeting of the Security Council this morning, at which the prime minister introduced Rybkin as secretary and insisted that Russia will never allow Chechnya to secede. (Itar-Tass, October 21) They will also not be reassured by the fact that, as speaker of the Duma, Rybkin was from 1994-95 a member of the Russian Security Council and was thus a member of the group that decided to launch a military operation against Chechnya. He therefore seems unlikely to come up with new ideas about how to resolve the conflict.
Chechen Opposition Sets Date for Elections, Names Prime Minister.