Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 89

In an interview on May 1, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov called for negotiations with the Kremlin but said that they could not take place without a guarantee from a “third, independent” party. Maskhadov apparently had in mind a third government or an international organization, saying that he had already appealed to the governments of Georgia, Poland and France to play this role. In another interview two days later, Maskhadov claimed that negotiations had already begun, but that hardliners on both the Chechen and Russian sides were opposed to any cessation of war and were trying to block possible contacts between him and President-elect Vladimir Putin (Le Monde, May 1; Agence France Presse, May 3).

The Kremlin, however, continues to deny it has any plans to negotiate with Maskhadov. On May 3, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s spokesman on Chechnya, said that no preparations were being made for a Putin-Maskhadov meeting. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev echoed Yastrzhembsky’s comments yesterday. “We are not planning negotiations with any of them,” Sergeev said (Russian agencies, May 3-4).

Meanwhile, the Russian military has claimed a success against Chechen rebels, who have increasingly shifted to hit-and-run guerrilla tactics in recent weeks. According to the military, Russian special forces killed eighteen rebel fighters in a surprise attack May 3 near the Chechen capital. Yastrzhembsky said yesterday that the federal forces were switching to small unit missions in response to the change in the rebels’ tactics. On May 2, rebels killed three traffic policemen in the town of Shelkovskaya, located in territory putatively under federal control east of the capital. Last weekend, rebels killed the mayor of the town of Kattuni, located in the southern region of Vedeno, who had reportedly cooperated with federal forces against the rebels (Associated Press, May 3-4).