Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 149

Departing somewhat from the extreme caution it has shown toward Moscow, the OSCE Mission in Grozny is taking exception to some aspects of that conduct in its year-end report. The Mission now considers the holding of republican elections in Chechnya as premature, and their organization faulty. Citing lack of security at the polling stations, the Mission declines to monitor the elections; demurrals of this kind usually imply a refusal to legitimize the exercise. While praising Boris Yeltsin’s recent decree of amnesty for Chechen fighters, the Mission strongly recommends the resumption of political negotiations, thus indirectly backing the Chechen side’s calls to resume the negotiations suspended by Moscow. The Mission complains about restrictions on its freedom of movement in Chechnya. In the latest case last week, the Russian military barred Mission members from entering Shali–site of a Russian military massacre of civilians–and from meeting with Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov who represents Chechnya at the suspended negotiations with Moscow’s envoys in Grozny. Snippets of the confidential report were cited at news conferences in Grozny and Moscow by the OSCE chairman’s envoy Istvan Gyarmati and a press handout by Russia’s justice minister Valentin Kovalev, the highest official with whom Gyarmati was able to meet in Moscow. (12) The Mission, headed successively by Gyarmati and his fellow-Hungarian Sandor Meszaros, has worked in dangerous conditions which at times looked like blackmail orchestrated by Russian military or security authorities. Meszaros had to be repatriated after suffering injuries in a suspect traffic accident. Other members left or were withdrawn for personal or security reasons, pulverizing a staff which was small from the outset. The OSCE’s latitude to report and criticize crimes against the civilian population and other violations of OSCE norms is constrained by Russia’s right of veto in the organization. The OSCE’s predicament in Chechnya illustrates the inherent limits to the organization’s role as evidenced in less dramatic forms in other cases of Russian military intervention in the former USSR.

Still No to NATO Expansion.