On May 28, a two-day session of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO (PA NATO) was held in Vilnius, Lithuania. More than 800 persons attended the session-members of NATO and associated states, as well as persons with observer status. On the first day of the meeting, Algirdas Endriukaitis, a Lithuanian, and the head of an international group of parliamentarians from seventeen countries concerned with the issue of Chechnya, called upon the leadership of NATO to exert “moral, legal and political” pressure on Russia “to begin peace negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov and the parliament of Chechnya.” Endriukaitis also urged NATO to inquire into the fate of the chairman of the parliament of Chechnya, Ruslan Alikhadzhiev, who was taken away by Russian soldiers a year ago and has not been heard from since (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 29). In its final communique, the NATO assembly called upon Russia “to expedite the OSCE Assistance Group’s return to Chechnya and to urge Russia to meet its commitments to facilitate the Group’s work under its existing mandate.” The Chechen separatists, for their part, were urged “to cooperate in good faith in seeking a political solution to the conflict, to condemn terrorism and to take actions against it” (Nato.int website, May 29).
Following a three-day visit to Moscow, the general secretary of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, affirmed on May 25 that “the human rights violations which have happened [in Chechnya] are so far not being thoroughly investigated.” The Council of Europe, he said, is “waiting for the results [of the investigation] of mass graves which were found, some of them very close to [Russian] military and police bases.” “In general,” Schwimmer added, “the social and economic situation in Chechnya is unsatisfactory” (Agence France Presse, May 26).
On May 26-27, a two-day meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) devoted to the Chechen crisis was held in Prague. A Russian parliamentary delegation headed by Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the State Duma, was in attendance. Three Chechen speakers were invited to address the assembly: Taus Dzhabrailov, press secretary for Akhmad Kadyrov; Dzhabrail Gakaev, a leader of the Chechen diaspora who lives in Moscow; and Akhyad Idigov, a deputy of the Chechen separatist parliament. Commenting on Idigov’s presentation, Nazavisimaya Gazeta wrote: “As for Idigov’s speech, it became a kind of sensation–for the first time since the beginning of the Chechen campaign, emissaries of the Chechen separatists were listened to by Russian official representatives at an official event” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 29).