Several politicians publicly blamed federal authorities for precipitating the latest hostage crisis. Sergei Kovalev, deputy to the new Duma and chairman of the Russian presidential human rights commission, said the December elections in Chechnya were a cause of the hostage seizure. Calling the elections a "monstrous treason perpetrated by the federal government," Kovalev said only peace talks without preconditions could have prevented a deterioration of the situation in Chechnya. (13) Former Russian Supreme Soviet chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov also pointed to the December elections as a turning point, arguing they were part of a policy "directed at placing yet another Russian puppet government, this time headed by Doku Zavgayev, in the republic." Khasbulatov, who has occasionally been peddled by Moscow as an alternative to Dudayev, said the Chechen crisis could be resolved only by withdrawing federal troops from Chechnya. (14) Retired Lt. General Aleksandr Lebed took another tack, characterizing the situation in Chechnya as "an opportunity" for the government to introduce an emergency situation in Russia and even abolish the 1996 presidential election.
In related news, the Russian Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it could not confirm reports that Pakistani nationals were among the rebels who seized hostages in Dagestan or that some Chechens involved in the raid had undergone military training in Pakistan. (15)
…While Grachev Says He Won’t Resign.