The no. 36 (May 28-30) issue of Novaya Gazeta carried an interview with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov by award-winning war correspondent Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya, it should be noted, interviewed Maskhadov in central Chechnya and not in a mountain district (Gazeta.ru, May 29). “The war,” Maskhadov maintained in the interview, “has been lost [by Russia]. The ‘hawks’ in the Kremlin and the Russian leadership understand it…. The [Russian] army has stopped cold, it is demoralized. The army is degenerating…. The trouble is there is no state official in the Kremlin we can talk to reasonably…. [But] negotiations are possible. They are inevitable. Our proposals are well known.”
On May 29, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky sharply criticized the publication of this interview, saying: “It is regrettable that a well-known Russian newspaper has again given its pages to one of the Chechen terrorists and separatists, who is on the federal wanted list for armed rebellion. I believe it is time to have laws that will envisage tougher sanctions for granting air time and column time for propaganda of extremist views” (Russian agencies, May 29).
At a press conference held in Moscow on May 30 in the Institute for the Development of the Press, the members of the Russian national committee “For Halting the War and Restoring Peace in the Chechen Republic” announced that they intended to exert significant pressure on the Russian authorities to begin negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov. Among the members of the committee, which was created in March of this year, are Duma deputies Sergei Kovalev, Boris Nadezhdin, Yuly Rybakov, Sergei Yushenkov and the president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev; the well-known writers Viktor Astaf’ev, Andrei Bitov, Viktor Erofeev, Arkady Vaksberg and Aleksandr Tkachenko; Academician Yury Ryzhov; and human rights leaders Yelena Bonner, Lev Ponomarev and Valerii Borshchev. On 30 March, the committee had sent appeals to Presidents Putin and Maskahdov urging a negotiated settlement. On May 24, a reply, dated April 20, was received from President Maskhadov stressing his commitment to a negotiated agreement. No answer has to date been received from President Putin (Kommersant, May 31).