Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 215

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov appeared yesterday at a session of the republic’s Supreme Sharia Court, which was examining the accusations made by field commanders Salman Raduev, Shamil Basaev and Khunkar Israpilov that Maskhadov has violated Chechnya’s constitution. Among those who appeared at the session were Basaev and Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev, as well as Chechnya’s mufti (Russian agencies, November 18). By showing up at a session of the Sharia court, Maskhadov demonstrated that he is not afraid of his opponents. In any event, there is little doubt that the pro-Maskhadov court will find in favor of the Chechen president. It is equally certain that the opposition will not recognize the court’s verdict and will attempt to have “the Maskhadov affair” examined by the so-called “independent Supreme Sharia Court–the rival judicial structure which the opposition recently created.

It is apparent that Maskhadov himself understands that his conflict with the opposition will not be resolved any time soon, and thus he is taking pre-emptive defensive measures and attempting to win back his authority. The president has approved a special anticrime plan, according to which he personally will carry out a complex of measures. The goal of the plan is to strike at groups specializing in kidnapping, as well as those involved in stealing oil. Lawlessness has become perhaps the major issue for the republic’s inhabitants.

Formally, Djohar denies that the plan is connected to actions carried out by the organizers of the opposition National Congress of the Chechen People or Salman Raduev’s refusal to obey the four-year prison sentence handed down against him by the Supreme Sharia Court. In reality, however, there can be little doubt that Maskhadov is taking precautions just in case there are any surprises from the unpredictable Raduev. The authorities last week failed miserably in their attempt to arrest Raduev, after which the rebel field commander openly held a press conference in Djohar to announce that he has no plans to hide, and that if anyone wants to try and arrest him, his address is well known. Given this situation, it is becoming less clear who will arrest whom first (Russian agencies, November 17-18).