There was confusion yesterday about how the Chechen authorities would react to threats by renegade field commander Salman Raduev to continue the struggle for Chechen independence by means of terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg and Voronezh. Railway stations in Voronezh were closed and police in St. Petersburg were placed on alert. Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov’s envoy, Ruslan Kutaev, told a Moscow press conference that Chechnya’s prosecutor general had issued a warrant for Raduev’s arrest. (Interfax, May 5) Back in Djohar-gala, however, the prosecutor general’s office denied Kutaev’s statement. (NTV, May 5) Only late last night was a compromise announced: the prosecutor general will investigate Raduev’s claim that he was responsible for last month’s fatal bombings in Armavir and Pyatigorsk, but will not order his arrest. If the investigation fails to substantiate Raduev’s claims, Djohar-gala will limit itself to "precautionary measures." (Interfax, May 5)
The decision reflects widespread skepticism about Raduev’s claims; many in the Chechen leadership believe that the Russian forces were behind the bombings. But Djohar-gala is concerned that the bombings are undermining peace negotiations by fueling the arguments of Russian hawks such as Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov that the Maskhadov leadership is not in control of the republic.
It is doubtful that Raduev actually ordered the bombings. Even if he did, it is doubtful whether the Chechen authorities could prove it. According to Russian Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky, Djohar-gala has no real means of dealing with Raduev. (NTV, May 5) The decision to file a criminal investigation against Raduev appears therefore to be a gesture by Djohar-gala to Moscow on the eve of Maskhadov’s expected meeting with President Boris Yeltsin.
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