A revised schedule for Chechen disarmament, and parallel Russian troop withdrawals, goes into effect October 5, by decision of the joint monitoring commission. The October 3 announcement from the military commanders and commission co-chairmen, Lt. General Anatoly Romanov and Maj. General Aslan Maskhadov, did not name a completion date, apparently because of skepticism regarding its fulfillment. The new schedule became necessary because the previous one had remained largely a dead letter. Romanov and Maskhadov, accompanied by OSCE mission personnel, began October 3 a series of meetings with Chechen field commanders in various parts of Chechnya hoping to persuade them to adhere to the disarmanent-and-withdrawal schedule. Russia’s Internal Affairs Minister, Col. General Anatoly Kulikov, hoped aloud that disarmament would, if only "for the most part," be achieved within two months, thus making possible the holding of elections on schedule in December.
Disagreement persists on the formation of Chechen self-defense units. The Russian side seeks to confine those units to areas where pro-Moscow Chechen authorities do not operate. The Chechen side rejects this as a violation of the armistice agreement, and asserts its right to form such units in any part of the republic. Maskhadov described this issue as "fateful" for Chechnya and the security of its people.
The military situation has for nearly a week remained relatively calm, with sporadic skirmishes resulting daily in a few wounded but no reported fatalities. Two potential flashpoints have appeared in western Chechnya where Russian troop concentrations have behaved aggressively in Sernovodsk and Asinovskaya in response to rallies by local residents demanding the troops’ withdrawal, and menacingly to Chechen forces reportedly ready to come to their aid.
In Grozny, Ruslan Khasbulatov came out against Moscow’s proposals to hold federal elections in Chechnya in December if local Chechen elections can not be held at the same time. He insisted that Chechen elections should have priority because they would enable Chechnya to negotiate its future political status with the federal government. "It is that status which interests the majority of Chechnya’s population including those who back Dudayev," Khasbulatov contended. While Khasbulatov evidently hopes that such elections would qualify him to negotiate with the federal center, Dudayev’s government sees little need for the exercise and has restated its willingness to negotiate on its own for Chechnya’s political status, possibly within the CIS framework.
The Russian-promoted round table reconvened October 3 without Khasbulatov who is openly contemptuous of Moscow’s nominees in Grozny, and still without any Dudayev representatives. The (pro-Dudayev) Chechen parliament chairman Akhyad Idigov announced that his side would never negotiate with the "Khadzhiev-Avturkhanov puppets." Those so described rejected, from their poorly attended round table, any "compromise with a criminal" and welcomed the former Chechen-Ingush ASSR Supreme Soviet chairman Doku Zavgayev, now a middle-level official in Yeltsin’s presidential administration recently dispatched to Grozny, to a new role in Chechen politics. The session again illustrated the irrelevance of the round table exercise. (8)
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