Chechen president-elect Maskhadov says that winning recognition from the international community is one of his most important tasks. "We realize the West will not simply open its doors to us, …but we shall win this fight, just as we won the war," Maskhadov says. "The fact that people are tying us to Ivan Rybkin and Boris Berezovsky does not suit me… Many people seem to think I am a compromiser and that I am ready to enter into any negotiations with Russia. Rybkin and Berezovsky and even Chernomyrdin think so. But they’re wrong." (Argumenty i fakty, January 29)
On the eve of the Chechen elections, Russian foreign minister Yevgeni Primakov warned the outside world that Moscow would break off relations with any state that recognizes Chechnya. Maskhadov is therefore saying the very things that will irritate Moscow most. His radicalism is easily explained. After a year and a half of war, Chechnya is split into zones of influence of individual field commanders, each of whom is accustomed to being absolute ruler in his own region. Maskhadov is therefore not yet in complete control of the republic. Salman Raduev, who last year led a hostage-taking raid on the Dagestani city of Kizlyar, has already said that he does not recognize the results of the elections and will continue the armed struggle against the Russian army on the territory of the other North Caucasus republics. "At least three Russian cities must be burned to cinders," he told Reuter news agency yesterday. (NTV, January 29; Financial Times, January 30) It is significant that in the northern, lowland, regions of Chechnya, Maskhadov got about 95 percent of the vote, while his margin of victory in the mountain regions was less imposing. (Interfax, January 29) If he is to assert control over the republic, Maskhadov, will have to heed the opinions of his more radical comrades-in-arms.
Maskhadov’s Olive Branch Rebuffed.