Magomed Khachilaev, the infamous deputy in Dagestan’s Popular Assembly, has been released from prison in Makhachkala, the region’s capital. The official reason for his release is that his health had begun to deteriorate–specifically, that he was losing his sight (RTR, NTV, March 11). Khachilaev and his brother Nadyr, who is also a deputy in the Dagestan legislature, have been accused of organizing mass disturbances in Makhachkala in May of last year, when their fighters seized the republic’s government headquarters for several hours. The Khachilaev brothers, who are among the most influential criminal leaders in Dagestan, have close ties to Chechen fighters. Rebel Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev several times called Nadyr Khachilaev his close friend. On the eve of the signing of the Khasavyurt agreements ending the war in Chechnya, Nadyr Khachilaev acted as an intermediary between Aslan Maskhadov, then chief of staff of the Chechen resistance forces, and Aleksandr Lebed, then secretary of Russia’s advisory Security Council. After the war ended, the Khachilaev brothers were involved in the freeing of some 150 prisoners held by Chechen fighters. Thus it is quite possible that the Kremlin has arranged Magomed Khachilaev’s release from prison with the hope that the Khachilaev brothers can assist in freeing General Gennady Shpigun (Kommersant daily, March 11).
Meanwhile, yesterday, as the tensions surrounding Shpigun’s abduction continued to escalate, Kremlin officials reported that President Boris Yeltsin does not rule out the possibility of meeting Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. According to Dmitri Yakushkin, Yeltsin’s press secretary, the president believes that it is of cardinal importance regarding Chechnya to maintain peace in the republic while carrying out adequate measures to counter the activities of Chechen bandits who specialize in hostage-taking (RTR, March 11). Although these two goals appear to contradict one another in some measure, it is also clear that the Russian authorities are unlikely to begin any type of military operations in Chechnya prior to a meeting between Yeltsin and Maskhadov.
EMIGRATION FROM RUSSIA TO ISRAEL SAID TO BE RISING.