Chechnya’s new president, Aslan Maskhadov, was inaugurated today on the outskirts of the capital, Djohar-gala. The ceremony could not take place in the center of the city because all the buildings there were destroyed during 21 months of warfare. Maskhadov swore on the Koran to be faithful to his people and to the constitution of the Chechen Republic and to strengthen the independence of the free Islamic state. Security was tight, with some 4,000 guards on duty to maintain order and protect the 500 guests, mainly elders and mothers of Chechen soldiers killed in the fighting. President Yeltsin was represented by Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin, and the Chechen authorities said yesterday that 13 foreign delegations and a number of representatives from Russia’s regions had arrived for the ceremony. But there were complaints that Moscow had refused entry visas to a number of foreign invitees, including a group of Lithuanian parliamentarians and the president of Georgia’s breakaway republic, Abkhazia. (NTV, February 11; Nezavisimaya gazeta, BBC World Service, February 12) Also present was Aleksandr Lebed, who last year signed the peace agreement with Maskhadov that ended the fighting. Lebed’s presence was largely ignored by the Russian media, the BBC noted. Maskhadov and Rybkin are expected to hold a working meeting later today. Rybkin hopes Maskhadov will agree to mark his inauguration by freeing all Russian prisoners of war. (NTV, February 11)
Russia’s Justice Minister Floats Trial Balloon on Chechen Independence.