Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 210

A report published on Kavkaz.org, the radical pro-Chechen website based in Qatar, claims that the rebels have received confidential information from Moscow that President Vladimir Putin recently presided over a secret Kremlin meeting of key government officials on “the Chechen question.” The session was reportedly convened in connection with increasingly “destabilizing processes” in Central Asia. According to the rebels’ special services, although Putin remains a prisoner of his own ambitions vis-a-vis “Ichkeria,” he increasingly understands the impossibility of defeating the rebels militarily, but has been unable to find anyone who could realize his ideas for getting out of the Chechen dead-end. At the same time, the Kremlin reportedly feels pressure to find a way out because of American plans to divide Central Asia into spheres of influence. In addition, various Russian analysts believe that a protracted war in Chechnya could destabilize the situation within Russia itself.

Thus Putin reportedly said during the meeting that the Kremlin is ready to recognize an independent Chechen state when and if “a civilized leadership” is already in place in the republic or comes to power. Not surprisingly, the Kremlin does not include rebel field commander Shamil Basaev or members of his inner circle in this category. In addition, the Kremlin views Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as a very undesirable candidate, but a possible one nonetheless if Moscow is unable to find a more acceptable Chechen leader.

By “civilized leadership,” the Kremlin means one that:–will not carry out an “anti-Russian” policy,–will not seek close relations or to become allied with third countries (meaning the United States) to the detriment of Russian interests,–will carry out a “pro-Russian” policy in the Caucasus,–will fight Islamic fundamentalists and–will allow Russian financial groups and structures to participate seriously in all economically important spheres of an independent Ichkeria, above all the oil sector.

According to the rebel account, the Kremlin is seriously considering the idea of recognizing Chechnya’s independence under the leadership of Akhmed Kadyrov, the current head of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration. This idea, however, cannot be realized as long as Maskhadov and a host of other rebel leaders, including Basaev, former Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov and former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, among others, remain alive. During the secret Kremlin meeting, Putin putatively told the Federal Security Service (FSB) that if an acceptable candidate emerges from among Russia’s armed opponents in Chechnya, it should take all possible measures to clear his way to power and get rid of all his potential competitors. Putin allegedly said that the United States and Europe would help in this. At the same time, Putin admitted that it would be almost impossible to find among the rebels a “candidate” who would be ready to cut a deal with Moscow (Kavkaz.org, November 23).