In similar fashion, on January 25, Russia’s Foreign Ministry harshly criticized the United States for a meeting held on January 23 between Ilyas Akhmadov, the separatists’ chief international diplomat, and representatives of the U.S. State Department (Russia Journal, January 25). In his response to the Russian charges, the press secretary of the State Department, Richard Boucher, noted that the meeting with Akhmadov had occurred “within the framework of attempts by the U.S. to help establish peace in Chechnya.” Boucher added that the meeting had had an unofficial character and had been held outside the premises of the department. Akhmadov had had contact with employees of the Department in his capacity as “a private individual who knows the Chechen conflict from within” (Lenta.ru, January 25).
On January 23, Richard Armitage, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, asserted that the United States wanted to rid the world of Khattab, the leader of the “Arab contingent” fighting in Chechnya, “more strongly than anyone with the exception of Russia.” Khattab, Armitage declared, “is a disgrace to the human race, and the sooner we are rid of him, the better.” Washington, he said “has no patience and not the slightest sympathy” with the “Arab mujeheddin” fighting in Chechnya. However, Armitage went on to emphasize, there are leaders within the Chechen resistance who are quite different from Khattab. “Within the framework of the Chechen problem we make an important distinction between the Arab mujeheddin and the Chechens,” he stated (Lenta.ru, January 23).