At a March 22 press conference in Djohar, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov disavowed his earlier statement that the attempt on his life on March 21 was carried out by Russian special services (see the Monitor, March 22). Maskhadov also admitted the advisability of holding a meeting with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, but said that it would have been better to meet directly with President Boris Yeltsin. Maskhadov appears to have concluded that he has too many powerful enemies in Chechnya to annoy the Kremlin without good reason. At the same time, Primakov’s press secretary Tatyana Aristarkhova announced that Primakov would not be able to meet with Maskhadov before leaving today on his official visit to the United States. Primakov is expected back in Russia on the evening of March 27 (Russian agencies, March 22).
Meanwhile, the terrorist attacks in Vladikavkaz, the North Ossetian capital, and Djohar, the Chechen capital–which Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said he believed were linked (see the Monitor, March 22), seem to be inclining the Russian leadership toward hardening its position vis-a-vis Chechnya.
Notable in this regard is the view of Russian Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, who criticized Maskhadov for not having taken advantage of the “personal factor of Primakov.” According to Abdulatipov, Primakov has long been ready for a meeting with the Chechen leader. Abdulatipov called for imposing a state of emergency on all Russian territory less than twenty kilometers from the Chechen border.
Given that Abdulatipov’s statement came almost immediately after the terrorist bombing in Vladikavkaz, one can assume that the Kremlin believes that the blast was carried out by Chechen terrorists. Officials in Moscow apparently believe that there will be further terrorist attacks, and their fears were given substance with the discovery yesterday of two more explosive devices in Vladikavkaz. In Moscow, meanwhile, the authorities have stepped up security measures, including the inspections of cars (RTR, March 22).
MOSCOW LOSES YALTA LINE, CLINGS TO RIBBENTROP-MOLOTOV LINE.