Russian deputy premier and interior minister Anatoly Kulikov has called for preventive strikes on the bases of Chechen fighters suspected of having taken part in last month’s raid on the Dagestani town of Buinaksk. "These bandits don’t understand anything else; you’ve got to destroy them," Kulikov declared. He said that he would express this point of view in a report to Boris Yeltsin. (RTR, January 6)
Kulikov is well known as a "hawk" who advocates a tough approach to the Chechen issue. He harshly criticized the Khasavyurt accords, which provided for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. It is nonetheless hard to imagine what made him decide to make such a provocative statement. Clearly, if the Kremlin decided to make "preventive strikes," the Chechen field commanders would resume military operations against Russian troops, irrespective of President Aslan Maskhadov’s wishes. According to Chechen first deputy premier Movladi Udugov, "giving in to such demands would lead to a new spiral of full-scale military actions."
It seems unlikely Yeltsin will agree with Kulikov’s point of view, at least publicly. But the deputy premier’s statements could further complicate Russian-Chechen relations and the negotiating process between Moscow and Grozny. It would provide a pretext for the Chechen radicals to say once again that the "party of war" has a dominating role in Russian politics, and that it is consequently pointless to try to come to terms with Moscow. And Maskhadov would be forced to listen to their opinion.
Kremlin Gives the Thumbs-Down to Self-Defense Detachments for Dagestan.