Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 118

Akhmed Kadyrov, the newly appointed head of Chechnya’s administration, is trying to use his influence to convince the rebels to put down their arms. Unlike the Kremlin, Kadyrov does not rule out the possibility of talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and other Chechen rebel leaders. According to Kadyrov, Maskhadov, as the republic’s elected leader, should appeal to the Chechen people to put down their arms. Kadyrov also reported that he plans to meet soon with a number of influential rebel field commanders, at their request. At the same time, Kadyrov considers talks with Shamil Basaev and Khattab pointless, and that the two militant rebel warlords should be destroyed (Kommersant, June 15).

The issue of negotiations hovered over the fifth anniversary of the Chechen terrorist attack on the town of Budenovsk in Stavropol krai, which took place on June 14, 1995, when Shamil Basaev led the attack on the town, in which 129 people died, including some 100 civilians. Nearly 400 people were wounded. Over several days, Basaev and his fighters seized and held more than 1,500 hostages in the town’s hospital, demanding that the Kremlin end its military operations in Chechnya and begin negotiations with the rebels. The Kremlin agreed to meet Basaev’s demands and at the end of June 1995 began talks with a delegation of Chechen rebel leaders headed by Usman Imaev, who then headed the breakaway republic’s Justice Ministry. On the eve of the talks, the federal troops forced the rebels into the republic’s mountainous regions, essentially cutting them off from supplies of weapons and food. The negotiations, however, allowed the rebels to regroup and continue their armed resistance. During the current Chechnya campaign, the Kremlin, clearly recalling those events, has refused to enter into talks with the rebels.

Meanwhile, on June 15, the body of Gennady Shpigun, the Russian Interior Minister’s representative in Chechnya, who was kidnapped there in 1998, was delivered from the breakaway republic to Moscow. General Shpigun was kidnapped at Djohar Airport on May 1, 1998. A year later, Russian troops found the body of a man who they thought was Shpigun. The assumption was that Shpigun had managed to escape captivity but froze to death before being able to reach the federal forces. A final conclusion about the identity of the body was only made at the start of this week, when forensic experts in the city of Rostov-on-Don positively identified the deceased as Shpigun.