Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 40

A disagreement within Chechnya’s underground separatist government became public over the weekend as one aide to its president Aslan Maskhadov rebuked another for stating that Maskhadov’s resignation could be part of a peace agreement.

Umar Khambiev, health minister in the separatist government, was that government’s only representative at a Stockholm conference hosted by the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, a human-rights group. The Russian embassy in Stockholm and the Swedish foreign ministry both declined to take part in the conference, according to a report in the November 1 edition of the Moscow daily Kommersant.

Khambiev, at present a resident of France, told the conference that separatist leaders are ready to “forget and forgive all offenses of the past if Russian authorities start negotiations for peace.” If Moscow agrees to have Chechnya placed temporarily under international administration, he said that Maskhadov would be willing to resign from the presidency to which he was elected seven years ago.

But Khambiev’s statement, which he said was on Maskhadov’s behalf, was immediately repudiated by the president’s spokesman Usman Ferzauli. The latter said that the health minister had spoken out “spontaneously” and without authorization, and in particular that his words about Maskhadov’s offer to resign were “nonsense.”