Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 172

Russian security council secretary Aleksandr Lebed is in Chechnya again today to meet with the commander of federal forces in the region, Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, and with the chief-of-staff of the Chechen opposition, Aslan Maskhadov. Two main items are on his agenda. One is the exchange of prisoners-of-war, where problems last week provoked the Russian military commander to announce the "temporary suspension" of the withdrawal of federal troops. The other is the formation of an interim coalition government to govern the republic until new elections are held. Difficulties on both fronts have produced what Russian television calls a state of "cold war" in Chechnya. (NTV, September 16) Both sides are accusing the other of massing fighters in or near Grozny and of preparing to attack the other’s positions. The federal side has accused the Chechens of introducing a criminal code based not on Russian but on Islamic law, including harsh punishments for trading in or consuming alcohol. The Chechens respond that these laws apply only to their own fighters, not to the population at large, but these and other lurid accusations are being reported at more or less face value by the Russian media, making it hard to form an objective picture. It is hoped that Lebed’s visit will shed some light on the real situation.

End-Game in the Far East?