On June 20, what purported to be a draft decree of the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria [CRI] "On the De-Occupation of and Extension of CRI Jurisdiction to the Territory Between the Terek and Sulak Rivers," appeared in the newspaper Molodezh Dagestana. Dagestan’s leadership immediately condemned the publication, which states that, "as the result of the occupation of part of traditional Vainakh [i.e., Chechen] lands between the Terek and Sulak rivers by the Red Army in January 1921, the Khasavyurt district, which had never been part of Dagestan oblast, was incorporated into the newly constituted Dagestan ASSR." The draft calls for the restoration of full CRI jurisdiction over the territory, now part of Dagestan, and orders the deployment of units of the Chechen armed forces there, first as "peacekeeping forces" and later as operational units of the Chechen Interior Ministry.
The Chechen government has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the decree, but the Chechen president’s representative in Dagestan, Sultan Gireev, has called it a provocation. (Russian news agencies, June 23) During his negotiations with then-Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed in August 1996, however, Aslan Maskhadov spoke of Khasavyurt as "sacred Chechen land."
The territory in question has been a subject of dispute between Dagestan and Chechnya for many years. The situation became especially tense after Djohar Dudaev came to power in Chechnya. Bloody confrontations began between Dagestani Chechens and members of other ethnic groups. When Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya last year, many analysts predicted that Djohar-gala would demand the return of the territory. Even if the draft presidential decree published on June 20 turns out to be a forgery, its very appearance is alarming since it suggests that efforts are being made to incite ethnic conflict on the territory of Dagestan.
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