Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 208

On Monday, during an address to a rally in the village of Gekhy-Chu marking the seventh anniversary of Dzhokhar Dudaev’s inauguration, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov promised to reveal in the near future the spot where Chechnya’s first president is buried. The decision was taken Sunday during a meeting between Maskhadov and leaders of the opposition (Russian agencies, November 9). Maskhadov’s decision can be viewed as an attempt to end the rumors and political speculation that Dudaev is still alive, and thereby enhance the legitimacy of the current government. As the newspaper “Nezavisimaya gazeta” noted, Dudaev’s “return” would be a surprise above all to Maskhadov who, as sources in his inner circle noted in April 1996, was operating on the assumption that Dudaev really was killed that year (Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 10).

In spite of appeals from the Chechen government that political demonstrations not be held on the anniversary of Dudaev’s inauguration, Chechen field commanders Salman Raduev, Shamil Basaev and Khunkar Israpilov held a session of the National Congress of the Chechen People in the capital Djohar (the former Grozny). It is worth noting that the congress session was opposed even by a long-time critic of Maskhadov and ally of Raduev, Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who appeared on local television Sunday night (November 8) and appealed to the organizers of the congress to cancel their plans. But Yandarbiev’s warnings about the dangers of parallel power structures appearing in the republic were ignored. Raduev, Basaev and Israpilov–the organizers of the congress–are planning a three-day forum, during which the leadership structures of the congress will be created (RTR television, November 9).

How developments in Chechnya will develop further depends in large part on the actions of Shamil Basaev. The position of Basaev, who is the most influential of the field commanders, is not entirely clear. On the one hand, he constantly emphasizes that no one will be able to divide the nation, unleashing an armed internal conflict. At the same time, Basaev is participating in the current session of the National Congress of the Chechen People, which apparently plans to create rival power structures to those of the government. Basaev has also not revealed his view of the Supreme Sharia Court’s decision to sentence Raduev to four years’ imprisonment (see the Monitor, November 6).

Meanwhile, Maskhadov’s shaky position is causing serious worry in the Kremlin. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov discussed the situation in Chechnya with Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, after which Stepashin reported that Moscow plans to give the Chechen Interior Ministry financial aid, which can help strengthen the Chechen president’s position (Russian agencies, November 9).