Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 81

Over the weekend, a meeting of the council of the “North Caucasus” association of economic cooperation took place in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz. That the meeting was held where it was was not an accident. The republic is the most economically developed one in the North Caucasus and Vladikavkaz is striving to become the region’s leader. The association was created to coordinate the actions of the leaders of the North Caucasus republics and the Kremlin in stabilizing the economy of the region. Among the participants was Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

It is significant that a federal official as high as the prime minister attended the meeting. According to two leading newspapers, the main goal of Primakov’s visit was to prepare for the planned meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. On the eve of the meeting, the Chechen president was invited to attend but chose not to do so, sending instead a representative, Vice Premier Lom-Ali Alsultanov. Maskhadov, however, did not give his emissary the authority to engage in negotiations with Primakov (Kommersant, April 27; Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 24).

The upcoming Yeltsin-Maskhadov visit will, it is said, be prepared more carefully than previous ones, which have consisted of no more than an exchange of opinions or the signing of documents. This time, perhaps, the two leaders will move off dead center. Such hopes are connected with the fact that the North Caucasus leaders will play no small role Russia’s increasingly lively electoral politics. The Kremlin is also thinking about the approach of the anniversary of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya; it is possible that the meeting between Yeltsin and Maskhadov will happen as soon as May 12. The Russian side, according to First Deputy Kremlin Administration Chief Oleg Sysuev, is imposing only one condition on Djohar: that the negotiations be substantive (Kommersant, April 27; Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 24).