Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 24

On the eve of the June 16 Bush-Putin summit, President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya sent the American president an open letter on behalf of the Chechen nation. “I write,” Maskhadov began, “because my people will not have a place at the [negotiation] table and yet their plea must be heard. Like you I am the democratically elected and legitimate leader of a sovereign republic.” After detailing the trials endured by the Chechen people during the 1994-1996 and 1999-2001 conflicts, Maskhadov observed, “Since June of 2000, my peace proposal for a negotiated and honorable conclusion of hostilities that would preserve the independence of our people and restore stability to the greater Caucasus region has been known to your State Department. Our efforts aimed at ending bloodshed have existed since the war began, but time and again President Putin has sought to dictate terms only through force.” “Show us, Mr. President,” Maskhadov concluded his appeal to Bush, “that the rule of law, that the justice of man, and the diplomacy of nations is not merely for the strong. Remember us to President Putin…. I pray, Mr. President, that your mighty voice will lend itself to the cause of peace and reason” (Chechenpress via Ichkeria.org, June 15).

In a taped recording outlining his views, sent at the request of Agence France Presse, President Maskhadov confided that the “position of principle” adopted by the new Bush administration toward Chechnya “brings us a little bit of hope.” But Maskhadov went on to criticize the rest of the international community for its “impotence” in trying to resolve the conflict, noting that the Chechens were prepared to endure a long war if Moscow persisted in refusing negotiations. (Agence France Presse, June 14).

Going over the head of Vladimir Putin, the Russian National Committee “For Halting the War and Restoring Peace to Chechnya,” an organization founded in March of this year, appealed on June 14 to President Bush and to the other leaders of the G-7 nations asking that they help induce the Kremlin “to raise with President Putin the necessity of immediately beginning peace talks between Russia and Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov.” Speaking on behalf of the committee, Duma deputy and former Russian human rights commissioner Sergei Kovalev termed the Chechen conflict “our national disgrace, but also a disgrace for the international community as a whole.” Bush and the other G-7 leaders, it should be noted, will be meeting with Putin at a summit in Genoa, Italy scheduled for July 21-22 (Agence France Presse, June 14).

A leading human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, has reported that on June 8 it sent a letter to President Bush urging him to press for vigorous investigations into Russian abuses in Chechnya and for access to the region for international monitors. The rights organization called upon Bush to seek assurances from President Putin that the Russian government “would issue invitations to UN thematic rapporteurs or [specialists] on summary executions, torture and arbitrary detention,” urging that such persons be permitted to visit Chechnya “before July’s G-8 summit” (Human Rights Watch, June 15).