In light of the new outbreak of serious fighting in Chechnya, the long passive Russian State Duma apparently intends to involve itself in the search for a political solution to the conflict. Duma deputy Valentin Nikitin recently visited Chechnya, where he held talks with the republic’s pro-Moscow administration. He noted that the Duma’s Commission on Chechnya would be having a thorough discussion of the situation in the republic on May 18, and that, on June 4, the Duma planned to hold hearings on the question of the numerous Chechen citizens who are disappearing without trace. From June 10-15, Nikitin said, the Duma’s Commission on Chechnya would be visiting Chechnya. Nikitin revealed that he intends “to prepare an appeal to the head of state [Putin] with a condemnation of the disproportionate actions of the [Russian] military with regard to the peaceful population [of the republic]” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 8). The elected Duma deputy from Chechnya, Aslambek Aslakhanov, recently stated that the parliament’s June 4 hearings would treat both “those who have disappeared and those who are being held by force” in the republic (Strana.ru, May 8).
The influential international mediation organization FEWER (Forum on Early Warning and Early Response), in an analysis compiled with its regional partner, the Peace Mission in the North Caucasus, headed up by retired General Aleksandr Lebed, currently governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, warned on May 9 that the conflict in Chechnya “is likely to escalate in the coming three months.” FEWER notes that “low morale among the federal troops, alienation of the civilian population, profiteering from the war, human rights abuses and external financial support for the conflict” all stand in the way of peace (Financial Times, May 9).