Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 148

Details of Saturday’s meeting in Nazran between Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov remain unknown to the public. Not only did the two leaders not conclude any new agreements, they did not even issue a joint statement afterwards. (NTV, RTR, August 2)

Journalists had to glean what information they could from Maskhadov’s and Kirienko’s rather vague statements. In Maskhadov’s opinion, the most important thing was that the meeting actually took place. Six months ago, he said, Djohar was wondering whether there was any point in holding meetings with Russian officials at all, since none of the agreements that Moscow had signed with Chechnya were being implemented. But after the change in the Russian government in March, the Chechens began to hope that the agreements would be implemented. This had still not happened, Maskhadov said, and that was why no new agreements were signed at this weekend’s meeting.

Kirienko also said he saw no point in piling up agreements that would not be implemented. “First, at least some small, concrete agreements must be implemented. Only when this is achieved, and the promises are kept, can we move further,” he said. In essence, Moscow was admitting that Russia has no money to restore the Chechen economy. As an alternative, Kirienko proposed creating a “free” or “special” economic zone in Chechnya. (NTV, RTR, August 2)

But even from the scanty commentaries of the meeting’s participants, it is clear that Maskhadov and Kirienko did not manage to agree on anything substantial, and that this was the reason for the lack of information about the results of the summit. The Kremlin has made the proposal of creating a special economic zone several times before, but Djohar has always rejected it out of hand. On the eve of the meeting, Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov said the Chechen government was ready to receive Kirienko only if the topic of Moscow’s paying Chechnya compensation for war damage was discussed. (NTV, July 30). Following Arsanov’s logic, one may consider the negotiations to have been a failure.

The Chechen opposition is already exploiting the less than modest results of the meeting. Former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev described Kirienko’s proposal for a free economic zone as an insult to the Chechen people and subjected Maskhadov to harsh criticism for not rejecting it out of hand.