Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 29

The October 4 issue of Nezavismaya Gazeta contained a lengthy interview by Il’ya Maksakov, a correspondent who writes frequently about the war in Chechnya, with Salambek Maigov, the influential chair of the Chechen Anti-War Congress. Together with the official pro-Moscow mufti of Chechnya, Akhmad-Khadzhi Shamaev, Maigov recently called for the beginning of negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov and for the withdrawal of federal troops from the republic. “In Chechen society,” Maigov said, “the reaction to our declaration was positive…. Russian public opinion is also aware of the ruinous effect of continuing the war. The [recent] words and initiatives of Yevgeny Primakov and Ivan Rybkin bear witness to this.” Maigov noted that he had just participated in a meeting of more than twenty Chechen human rights organizations held in Ingushetia. At the meeting, a decision was taken to create the “Popular Unity” political coalition. It was agreed to support proposals under which “the president [Aslan Maskhadov] and the parliamentary deputies elected in 1997 should be given security guarantees. This could be in a local district within Chechnya where they could carry out their duties and resolve the crisis.” “As far as Maskhadov is concerned,” Maigov remarked, “he is not only the elected president but also the leader of the armed resistance. He is a key figure in the process of regulation as is, to be sure, President Putin. Precisely these two individuals are capable of facilitating peace.”

Maigov went on to embrace the “Six Points” former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov recently made public. “It is time,” Maigov stressed, “to stop lying to ourselves. How long can we lie about thousands of dead rebels and about the support of the people [for the war]? De facto the entire Chechen populace hates the ‘federals’…. Putin and Maskhadov can find compromise decisions. But the problem is that there are groups in the Kremlin who hinder this process.” Maigov was prepared to admit that there were also groups among the separatists who opposed negotiations. “But Maskhadov,” he noted, “is prepared without prior conditions to begin negotiations. The position of Putin, on the other hand, was formulated three years ago and remains unchanged: ‘rub out the Chechens in the shithouse.’ Unfortunately, they are rubbing out the wrong ones. They are rubbing out women, children and old men. I am convinced that President Putin is aware of the dead-end nature of what is happening and is seeking a scenario for emerging from the situation that will leave him personally unscathed. Such a way out exists [that is, negotiations].” The problem is, he underscored, that in Moscow “there is no center for taking decisions relating to the Chechen problem.”