Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 193

Nothing was decided at yesterday’s parliamentary hearings. But Lebed waved around pages of a draft law on establishing a free economic zone in Chechnya. This proposal, believed to be the brainchild of Sergei Shakhrai, is being seen as a possible compromise that might allow Russian and Chechnya to avoid political issues and build a workable relationship on economic grounds. Shakhrai told journalists yesterday that the idea was based on the time-honored principle of "accepting what can’t be changed, changing what can be changed, and knowing one from the other." Shakhrai said that, whether Moscow likes it or not, a free economic zone will spring up spontaneously in Chechnya as soon as federal troops are withdrawn. This zone will be dominated by criminal groups and will be outside the reach of Russian law enforcement, he said. Taxes will not be collected because collecting them will be beyond anyone’s power. It is therefore pointless for Russia even to try to include Chechnya within its tax structure. Nor will Moscow be able to close down the zone by either law or force. Shakhrai advised the Russian government to tell Chechen leaders that Moscow will not try to collect taxes from Chechnya, but at the same time will not invest money in rebuilding the republic’s economy. Russia should establish barriers along the Chechen border, Shakhrai continued, because while these would not cut Chechnya off from trade with Russia, they would serve to levy duty. Whatever profit accrued within the republic would belong to the republic and could be spent on reconstruction. The hope would be that gradually the laws of the market would begin to replace those of the underworld. Shakhrai argued that while this was a long shot, it was the only realistic option open to Moscow in the circumstances. (ORT, October 15; Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 16)

An Old Paratrooper Defends His Service.