Relations between Moscow and Grozny are once again dangerously tense. Both sides are already threatening to repudiate the agreements signed earlier this week on the transit of Caspian oil through Chechen territory. (RTR, NTV, September 11) The situation took a turn for the worse when reports came in that a truck carrying Russian construction workers to Chechnya had been bombed on the border with Dagestan. Russian first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov reacted immediately by declaring that Moscow would repudiate the oil agreement with Chechnya if Chechnya did not guarantee the security of Russian workers. The Dagestan authorities responded with a statement that the workers in question were building a railroad branch line and had nothing to do with the oil pipeline. (Itar-Tass, September 11)
But Moscow’s harshest reaction was reserved for Chechen vice president Vakha Arsanov’s threats to open a criminal case against members of the Russian leadership and to hold public executions of those found guilty. The Russian government issued a statement demanding that the Chechen leadership formally repudiate Arsanov’s remarks before a new round of talks on preparing a full-scale treaty between Russia and Chechnya, intended for September 13, take place. (RTR, September 11)
The official reaction of the Chechen government, which met in special session yesterday, has not yet been published. (RIA-Novosti, September 11) It is, however, known that the President of Chechnya’s Southern Oil Company, Khodzhakhmed Yarikhanov, has asked the Chechen government to reexamine the oil agreements if Moscow does not stop making accusations and threatening to build a pipeline bypassing Chechnya. What especially upsets Yarikhanov is Moscow’s allegation that the Chechen authorities cannot guarantee the security of the people working on the pipeline. (NTV, September 11)
Grozny is highly unlikely to satisfy Moscow’s demands that it repudiate Arsanov’s remarks. Most likely, Moscow will pretend to forget about them in order not to disrupt the next round of talks on a Russian-Chechen treaty. But the Chechen leadership is extremely sensitive to any pressure. Fresh statements from Moscow on the construction of a pipeline bypassing Chechnya, or even remarks critical of the Chechen leadership, could provoke them into reexamining the oil transit agreement or postponing the next round of Russian-Chechen talks.
Postponement of Public Executions May be Sign of Disagreement Within Chechen Leadership.