Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 197

Chechen first deputy prime minister Movladi Udugov said that a number of foreign countries — mainly Islamic ones — are ready to recognize Chechnya’s independence "tomorrow," but declined to specify which countries he was referring to. Udugov also said that Chechnya was keen for Russia to be the first country to recognize its independent status. According to him, "this status is fixed, de facto, in the peace agreement signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Maskhadov. This is how we see the document." International legal scholars consulted by the Chechen government have come to the same conclusion, he added. (Russian agencies, October 20)

Udugov’s statement cannot be called sensational: the Chechen deputy prime minister told the Monitor virtually the same thing last week. (See Monitor, October 15) This week’s statement nonetheless provoked an immediate Kremlin reaction. Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky dismissed the statement out of hand, saying it contained "a big dose of overestimation of Grozny’s international possibilities." According to Yastrzhembsky, the Chechen authorities "are engaging in wishful thinking." The press secretary said that the question of international recognition of Chechnya’s independence is under constant monitoring by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the presidential administration. "We have no evidence which would confirm predictions like Udugov’s," he said. (Russian agencies, October 21)

From all indications, Yastrzhembsky’s point of view is closer to reality than Udugov’s. During the Chechen war, the resistance received the most assistance from the countries with the largest Chechen diaspora — chiefly, Turkey and Jordan. Even in these two countries, however, aid to Chechnya was given on an unofficial level and, in large part, against the wishes of their governments.

The position of the international community is easily explained. No state is likely to break off diplomatic relations with a country such as Russia in order to support the tiny republic. Even the parliaments of the Baltic states, where pro-Russian sentiment is not high, decided after heated discussion not to recognize Chechnya’s independence.

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