President Boris Yeltsin took steps yesterday to distance Russia’s hawkish interior minister, Anatoly Kulikov, from decision-making on Chechnya. Yeltsin ruled that from now on all policy on Chechnya is to be made by the Security Council. (Interfax, May 5) Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin and his deputy, Boris Berezovsky, are seen as the Kremlin’s leading moderates on how to negotiate with Djohar-gala, and Yeltsin himself is expected to chair a meeting of the council tomorrow.
According to Berezovsky, an "important" document mapping out future relations between the Russian Federation and Chechnya is being drafted in anticipation of Yeltsin’s meeting with Maskhadov. Berezovsky told Russia’s Independent TV yesterday he was confident the meeting will take place shortly. Berezovsky said the document will acknowledge that Russia’s 1994 military intervention in Chechnya was "a continuation of what began long ago and has been going on for 100 or 200 years." Berezovsky said the document will seek to assess the past "without hypocrisy" and to "put it behind us." He said he was in favor of asking the Russian parliament to ratify the document since this would give it more weight, and thought parliament would comply "since voting against it would mean voting against the peace process, and the public does not want the war to continue." (NTV, May 5)
Clearly, Moscow is working out a softer alternative to the "peace treaty" on which the Chechen side is insisting. A "peace treaty" does not suit Moscow since its very name would suggest that Chechnya is not part of the Russian Federation. From all indications, the Kremlin intends to apologize to the Chechens not only for the present war but for all the preceding colonial wars on Chechen territory and, by so doing, to assure Chechnya that Moscow will never again use force in its disputes with the republic. According to Berezovsky, fear of renewed aggression and distrust of Moscow lie behind Chechnya’s insistence on independence. He believes the issue can be resolved without a declaration of independence. (NTV, May 5) It is possible that Moscow will call on international organizations such as the UN or the OSCE to guarantee that the use of force to solve disputed questions with Chechnya will not be repeated.
Confusion in Chechnya over How to Handle Maverick.