Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 27

President Maskhadov of Chechnya’s underground separatist government issued a statement on July 21 calling for an “adequate reaction” from the international community to his Foreign Ministry’s proposal for conditional independence under an international administration. (The full statement, in Russian, is available via the pro-Maskhadov website Maskhadov’s statement received surprisingly wide coverage in the Russian mass media. A July 22 article on the website interpreted it as an attempt by the separatist leader to play a role in the republic’s presidential election campaign, which is being organized by the Moscow-appointed administration of Akhmad Kadyrov.

In his statement, Maskhadov made a point of responding to fears that an independent Chechnya would be a “source of Islamic extremism” and thus a “threat” to Europe. He suggested that a temporary international administration would also allay Russia’s concerns about threats to its own security from Chechen territory.

Especially tantalizing was a hint embodied in Maskhadov’s formulation that “independence is not an end in itself for the Chechen people, but only a means to put an end…to the more than four-century-long mourning of the Chechen people and to guarantee our people’s future security.” He immediately qualified that hint, however, by insisting that the “numerous attempts during the last two centuries to stop the genocide of the Chechen people by means of ‘wide autonomies,’ or ‘sovereignties within Russia’… have demonstrated the absolute impossibility of solving the problem of the security and the physical preservation of the Chechen people within the framework of Russia’s constitutional space.”

Fanning the faint hope of a serious dialogue between the separatists and the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a relatively independent-minded Putin appointee told Nezavisimaya gazeta in an interview published on July 22 that “Maskhadov should be given a chance.” Ella Pamfilova, head of Putin’s human rights commission, said that “it is absolutely clear that there are guerrillas with whom it is impossible to negotiate; their bands must be destroyed…But if Maskhadov truly intends to end confrontation, if he indeed renounces terrorism, then why not give a chance to be amnestied to him and to those of his supporters who have not been involved in terrorist plots?” What Pamfilova clearly had in mind, however, was Maskhadov’s participation as a candidate in the presidential elections organized by Kadyrov–elections that are sure to be rigged.