Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 7

On February 9, the Washington Post reported that “a senior representative of the [separatist] Chechen government publicly declared support for the U.S. war against terrorism, making a statement requested by State Department officials.” “After a three-week U.S. visit,” the Post account continued, “Ilyas Akhmadov [the separatist foreign minister] said continued conflict in Chechnya is a source of terrorism, alleging that ‘barbarian actions of Russian forces on our territory are used by radical elements’ to fuel ‘extremism both in Chechnya and abroad. Only a political settlement in Chechnya can completely eliminate the source of terrorism in our region.'”

On February 14, the French newspaper Liberation published an interview with Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. During the interview, Robinson stated inter alia: “Even within the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I am asked if since September 11 the rules of the game have changed. My answer is clearly no. What has changed is the practice of states, and that is disturbing…. In Chechnya, according to recent information, the Russian forces have been carrying out summary executions, arbitrary arrests and violations of human rights” (translated from the original French).

On February 12, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told Reuters that in principle the Russian government was still ready to hold talks with the Chechen separatists. “Not to shake hands,” he underscored, “but to discuss the agenda put forward by the federal side.” “The door remains open [for talks],” Yastrzhembsky affirmed. “If Zakaev was ready to return with a mandate by Maskhadov to continue his contacts with Kazantsev then the federal side would welcome that” (Reuters, February 14).