While yesterday’s Moscow deadline for Shpigun’s release passed without violence, the force option has by no means been discarded altogether. Stepashin emphasized yesterday that Yeltsin had approved his set of responses–which included military intervention–should Shpigun remain in captivity. Judging by press reports and comments from Russian politicians, a military response might include the bombing of suspected terrorist training camps in Chechnya as well as “special operations”–possibly to include a rescue attempt–by Russian special forces. Russian media reported today that law enforcement authorities are considering seizing influential members of the Chechen diaspora dispersed around Russia for exchange with Shpigun (Kommersant daily, Vremya-MN, March 10).
One newspaper reported today that Russia’s Interior Ministry believes that among those behind Shpigun’s kidnapping are Shamil Basaev, Arbi Baraev (another Maskhadov opponent who heads the Jamaat militia), Emir Khattab, Magomed Khambiev (head of Chechnya’s border-customs service), Abu Musaev (deputy head of the Ministry of Shari State Security) and Lom-Ali Baisugurov (head of the Chechen military counterintelligence) (Izvestia, March 10). Khambiev, Musaev and Baisugurov are all top officials in Chechnya’s state apparatus. That Russian law enforcement officials believe these men participated in Shpigun’s kidnapping suggests that tensions will remain high between official Djohar and Moscow, despite their attempts to make a show of unity against “bandits.”
Whatever the case, the atmosphere remains tense, and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will reportedly postpone his planned official visit to India because of the Chechnya crisis (Russian agencies, March 10).
BORDYUZHA’S HEART PROBLEMS–POLITICAL PROBLEMS IN DISGUISE?