There was cautious relief in Moscow at the news of Maskhadov’s victory, since the Kremlin sees him as the most moderate and pragmatic of Chechnya’s leaders. President Yeltsin issued a statement saying the election offered a "real opportunity for the continuation of productive negotiations" over Chechnya’s future status "within the Russian Federation." (RTR, January 28) Maskhadov said yesterday that he wants to open talks with Moscow, but he lost no time in stating that Chechnya will accept nothing less than independence. "We decided this issue in 1991, when we declared Chechnya an independent and sovereign state," he said. "Now all that remains is to obtain recognition of our independence from all the states of the world, including Russia." (RTR, January 28)
Leading Russian politicians were unanimous yesterday in restating Moscow’s position that Chechnya is and will remain part of Russia. But Yeltsin’s adviser Vyacheslav Nikonov struck a more nuanced note when he told the BBC that the Kremlin realizes that Chechnya will "never again become fully part of Russia." (BBC World Service, January 28)
Maskhadov, who has said that under his leadership Chechnya will become an Islamic state, stressed yesterday that his government would do everything it could to ensure that the ethnic Russian population would have no cause for unease and would want to remain in the republic. Chechnya needs the Russians’ specialized skills, he said, and it was not in the republic’s interests that they should leave. But, Maskhadov went on, he was "declaring war" on crime. He described the high crime rates plaguing the republic as the consequences of war: demobilized fighters have nothing to do now that fighting is over in a region that was characterized by high unemployment even in the Soviet period, when unemployment was officially said not to exist at all. (RTR, January 28)
Former Soviet Dissident Returns to Russia.