At its tensely-awaited session yesterday, the Russian government’s commission on Chechnya settlement resolved that military operations against Chechen "bandit formations" will continue while "the door remains open to negotiations" with Chechen commanders or civilian figures willing to cooperate. Talks with the opposition will continue on the reciprocal release of forcibly held persons. The commission further decided to work out a program of supplementary political, military, and economic measures in Chechnya for the second half of 1996 and submit that plan for President Boris Yeltsin’s approval. Finally the commission determined that the government’s work to explain its Chechnya policy to Chechen, Russian, and international public opinion was inadequate. In separate statements also yesterday, Prime Minister and commission chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin and top presidential aide Aleksandr Lebed attacked the Chechen resistance leadership for allegedly misinforming public opinion and slandering Russia’s leadership. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, Western agencies, July 17)
The commission’s decisions appears to drive another nail in the coffin of the armistice agreements. It spells continuation of the present policy of military operations against Chechen villages and sidelining the negotiations. The references to plans for the second half of 1996 would seem to reflect a Kremlin intention to fully use the remaining months of good weather for its military offensive, and afterward perhaps offer yet another "peace initiative." The commission’s decisions also reflect the ineffectiveness of visiting U.S. vice president Al Gore’s mild remonstrations with Kremlin leaders on the eve of the commission’s meeting.
Military Atrocities Proliferate.