Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 23

Salambek Maigov, the official Moscow representative of the Maskhadov separatist government, plans to visit the United States in mid-July. The visit will be another in a series of foreign trips and meetings with journalists and government officials outside Russia. The Russian government has been surprisingly tolerant of these activities, given its public denunciations of the Maskhadov government as a “bandit” entity with no moral or legal legitimacy.

Maigov told Jamestown in a June 20 telephone interview from Moscow that he travels abroad and back openly without interference from the Russian authorities. “I function here absolutely legally,” he said. This year he has been to the United Kingdom twice, and on June 25 he plans to leave for a conference in Switzerland. Within Russia he has met with several Duma members–including the anti-separatists Aslambek Aslakhanov and Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov. As one would naturally expect, he has also met with Russian “doves” such as Sergei Kovalev.

Maigov nevertheless acknowledged that, on an official level, the Russian government simply ignores him. He and Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky appeared together on a Russian television show at the end of February. But Yastrzhembsky said that he would be willing to meet separately with Maigov only if the latter were to state explicitly that he was not seeking an audience as Maskhadov’s official representative–a condition that Maigov declined.

Though he confirmed that he is able to exchange ideas with influential Russians who have President Putin’s ear, Maigov told Jamestown that, so far, concrete peace feelers are still being blocked “at the highest level”–perhaps by Putin himself.

He also confirmed that the detailed peace proposal unveiled in February of 2003 by Maskhadov’s Foreign Ministry, which provides for withdrawal of all Russian troops and temporary administration of Chechnya by a United Nations force, remains the separatist government’s official position. But he hinted that Maskhadov might be flexible, noting, for example, that he has reacted positively to the “Liechtenstein proposal.” Negotiated in August of 2002, this proposal would give the republic a “special status” within Russia protected by international guarantees (see Chechnya Weekly, September 9, 2002).