Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 132

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has formally accepted the resignation of acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev and effectively taken over the running of the government himself. (Russian agencies, July 8) The reason for Basaev’s resignation is not yet clear, though many see it as a sign of a disagreement between the two men. (See the Monitor, July 6) What is clear is that Basaev has become in recent months an increasingly open advocate of the removal from Russian jurisdiction not just of Chechnya but of the entire North Caucasus.

Basaev told journalists he does not intend to leave the political scene. He will now concentrate instead on building up the paramilitary Islamic peacekeeping brigade recently created “to maintain peace in the North Caucasus and tackle the problems facing the Muslims living in the region.” Russia’s policy toward the region, Basaev complained, is increasingly unpredictable. “Russia has neither an overall policy toward the North Caucasus, nor a united political leadership. In such circumstances, we must be ready to defend ourselves from aggressive attacks from Moscow,” Basaev said. (Russian agencies, July 7)

Basaev heads the Congress of Chechnya and Dagestan, set up in the spring with the express aim of unifying the two republics. In this capacity, Basaev attended last weekend’s parade by the peacemaking brigade. Basaev said the exercise was held to deter Russian militarists who, he said, “are trying to unleash war in Dagestan.” Presented with a saber by the Jordanian-born brigade leader Emir Khattab, Basaev declared: “This saber won’t just hang on the wall. It will serve the good cause of liberating the Caucasus.” (NTV, July 5) The event prompted a protest to Maskhadov by Dagestani leader Magomedali Magomedov. As part of the Russian Federation, Magomedov asserted, Dagestan is quite capable of defending itself and does not need outside assistance. (Russian agencies, July 9)