Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 27

Pro-reform deputies in the Russian parliament hope to force a debate this fall on a legislative proposal that would, as a report in Novye izvestia put it, “place the [Chechen] war…within a certain legal framework.” According to the July 8 article by Aleksandr Zhelenin and Aleksandr Kolesnichenko, the bill would amend a 1998 law on terrorism. It would require the formal issuing of an executive order by Russia’s president for an “anti-terrorist” operation to be conducted; such an order would have to define the operation’s goals, targets and geographical limits. The operation would be limited to thirty days, at the end of which the president would have the power to renew it for another fifteen days. If it required use of the armed forces, a formal state of emergency would have to be proclaimed.

Such a law would plainly forbid much of what the Kremlin is now doing in Chechnya: For example, elections and referenda cannot take place during a state of emergency. Though the bill’s chances of passage are nil, it helps keep in focus how far Vladimir Putin’s Russia is from becoming a state governed by law.