An amnesty for those involved in "socially dangerous activity" during the Chechen war was adopted yesterday by the Duma in its third and final reading. The amnesty does not extend to those accused of serious crimes such as bandit raids, terrorism, or sabotage. Its main purpose is to facilitate the release of Russian prisoners-of-war and hostages, since it allows criminal charges to be dropped against Chechens who agree to release servicemen or other Russian citizens held in Chechnya. (Interfax, March 12) According to Chechen custom, prisoners are the property of their captors, and it has recently become common for Chechens whose relatives are in Russian jails to buy prisoners from their captors with a view to effecting a swap.
One of the drafters of the amnesty, Vladimir Zorin, chairman of the Duma Committee on Nationalities, said he would like to see the terms of the amnesty broadened to include Shamil Basaev, organizer of the June 1995 Budyennovsk hostage-taking and the second-place finisher in Chechnya’s recent presidential election. Zorin said he believed that, were Basaev to be amnestied, "the Chechen side would probably make a goodwill gesture" in the negotiations with Moscow, which are currently stalled. (Interfax, March 12)
Some Discordant Notes in Israeli-Russian Talks.