Russian interior minister Anatoly Kulikov conferred in Moscow earlier this week with his Chechen counterpart, Kazbek Makhashev. The meeting took place in secret and journalists learned of it only after Makhashev had returned home. Kulikov said Makhashev had come to Moscow at his invitation in order to discuss "forming a new ministry." (Interfax, October 31) Order is currently being maintained in Chechnya only by the Chechen rebel fighters, who are implementing not the Russian criminal code but that of Chechnya-Ichkeria, based on Islamic law. Under Chechen law, the penalty for drinking or selling liquor is caning, while adultery is punishable by stoning. Moscow seems to have given up trying to persuade Chechen leaders to implement Russian law, and looks merely to persuade them to be moderate in their application of Islamic law. Kulikov admitted that the Chechen criminal code has not been abolished but, he said, judges will in future be more selective in sentencing criminals and "nobody will be chopping anybody’s hands off any more." (Interfax, October 31)
The demilitarization of Chechnya was also on the agenda. Despite earlier protests from the Kremlin, Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin has said Moscow will recognize the elections to be held in Chechnya on January 27, as long as the republic is demilitarized by that time. (Interfax, October 28) Moscow knows it is unrealistic to expect the Chechen resistance forces to disarm, but will apparently look the other way. Kulikov claimed that Chechen premier Aslan Maskhadov has forbidden rank and file soldiers to bear arms. "This is a quite serious step. They understand that they can’t hold legislative elections while the people are still armed. I think our partners are doing all they can to hold truly democratic elections in the republic," Kulikov said. (Interfax, October 31) Less than a month ago, Kulikov was describing the Khasavyurt accords as "treason" and the Chechen leaders as "bandits." (Interfax, October 2) His change of tone suggests that the Kremlin is reconciling itself to Chechnya’s secession from Russia and trying to make the best of an unwelcome situation.
Conciliatory Commission Continues Budget Talks.