Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 238

Unknown assailants last night killed four Russian residents in the Chechen capital, Grozny. (Interfax, December 19) This was the latest in a series of tragic events that includes the murder of six Red Cross workers on December 17 and the shooting of six elderly people in Grozny a day later. As organizational work proceeds for next month’s elections, such potentially destabilizing incidents serve the interests of neither the Chechen nor the Russian governments. According to Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Chechen elections "are important for everyone–for the Chechen people and for all of Russia." (Interfax, December 19) Russia hopes that the elections take place peacefully and that Chechnya elects a strong leader who can restore stability to the republic and build a new and constructive relationship with Moscow.

What is unusual is the extent of agreement between the Russian and Chechen governments as to who stands to benefit from destabilization. Former Chechen president Djohar Dudaev and his entourage used to blame all their misfortunes on "Kremlin intrigues." And current Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev has stated his fear that Russia’s special services "may themselves be involved" in the latest spate of killings. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 20) But now even Kremlin security chief Ivan Rybkin is not ruling out the possibility that outside forces were responsible for the murder of the Red Cross workers. ("Ekho Moskvy," December 19) His deputy, Boris Berezovsky, was more explicit, telling Russian TV the same day that the Kremlin is split and that the leaders of the "party of war — Korzhakov, Soskovets, and Barsukov" (the security aides fired from their post by President Yeltsin in July) — still have an interest in destabilizing Chechnya. Berezovsky also suggested that the traditional inter-force rivalry between the Defense and Internal Affairs Ministries is complicating the current Chechen situation. (NTV, December 19) Inter-force squabbles first broke into the open during the Chechen resistance’s attack on Grozny in March: federal troops stayed out of the battle between the Chechen fighters and the Interior Ministry troops until the latter had been virtually destroyed. This happened again during the August battle for control of Grozny.

The views of the Russian and Chechen sides also coincide over the mysterious disappearance of a North Ossetian delegation in northern Chechnya on December 18. (see Monitor, December 19) Chechen deputy premier Movladi Udugov says he suspects the "lost delegation" is sitting in a safe house somewhere in Vladikavkaz, while Rybkin suggests that they may have simply stayed with friends longer than anticipated. (Interfax, December 19)

U.S. and Russia Spar Over Latest Spy Case.