Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 188

Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov has sent a letter to Boris Yeltsin that lays out his view of relations between Moscow and Grozny. As Maskhadov’s press secretary noted on October 8, Maskhadov had already made an official statement on resuming the work of the Russian representation in Chechnya. Resumption, he said, was dependent upon Russia’s compliance with previously signed agreements. (Russian news agencies , October 6-7) On orders of Chechen vice president Vakha Arsanov, Russia’s 80-man delegation to Chechnya had been expelled on October 1, allegedly because Moscow denied permission to Arsanov to fly to Baku. (See Monitor, October 2)

Maskhadov’s letter suggests that Grozny’s complaints about Arsanov’s aborted flight were in fact only a pretext to expel the Russian representatives from the Chechen capital. In reality, Chechen leaders needed to expel the Russians in order to demonstrate their extreme dissatisfaction with the course of the talks between Moscow and Grozny. Arsanov, the formal initiator of the expulsion order, from all indications cleared his actions with Maskhadov.

At the same time, Maskhadov’s letter to Yeltsin shows that Grozny remains interested in talks with Moscow. Moreover, the Chechen authorities appear to have softened their positions. Immediately after the expulsions Maskhadov said that resumption of the work of the Russian representation in Grozny would be possible only after recognition of Chechen independence. Now Maskhadov is insisting only on Moscow’s compliance with previously signed agreements. At the same time, Maskhadov continues to believe that "the main obstacle to the regulation of Russian-Chechen relations is the fact that the political question" (i.e., Moscow’s recognition of Chechen independence) "has not been resolved." The Chechen president "will strive to resolve the central problem… the establishment of relations between our two states."

Sources in Yeltsin’s press service say that Maskhadov’s letter represents "a continuation of contacts with the leadership of the Chechen Republic, which have not stopped, even for one day." By mutual agreement, a working group, led by Russia’s deputy representative to Chechnya, Mukharbek Didigov, set off for Grozny. Moreover, a draft law on the stabilization and development of Chechnya is being prepared and presented to the Russian government.

Pushing the Start II Treaty.