Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 52

Tim Guldimann, the Swiss diplomat who heads the OSCE’s mission in Chechnya, testified in Washington yesterday before the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. A correspondent for the Monitor attended the hearing and reports that Ambassador Guldimann expressed guarded optimism about future relations between Russia and Chechnya. He said he thought a resumption of hostilities between Russia and Chechnya is unlikely and that the two sides have reached a point where they are able to negotiate face-to-face without international mediation or resorting to violence. As for the ambiguity currently surrounding Chechnya’s status inside or outside the Russian Federation, Guldimann said this is less of a problem for either Moscow or Djohar-gala than for the international community. The Russian and Chechen authorities, Guldimann implied, are at present more interested in negotiating practical solutions to immediate problems than in arguing about their mutually incompatible views of Chechnya’s status. He believes a resumption of violence can be avoided as long as all parties concerned, international organizations included, avoid the sensitive subject of Chechnya’s status and also focus their attention on problem-solving.

Guldimann was less optimistic, however, about the problems facing Chechnya. Some of these are so serious that they can be tackled only with international help, he said. They include the need to clear Chechen territory of land mines and the danger of the spread of disease as a result of damage during the war to Chechnya’s sewage system. Guldimann likened the environmental damage caused by oil contamination to that seen in Kuwait after the Gulf War. But he said that, even if international aid is forthcoming, dealing with these problems will be complicated by the high level of crime pervading Chechen society and the inability of the republic authorities fully to control it. He said pervasive criminality is making it hard for the republic authorities to carry out their undertaking to safeguard human rights in Chechnya, and that cases of the abuse of the rights of the Russian-speaking population are as a result going unpunished.

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