Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin plans to visit Chechnya in the near future and to meet with Chechnya’s provisional government. This subject was discussed during Chernomyrdin’s meeting yesterday with Ivan Rybkin, Russia’s security council secretary. Rybkin said the meeting also focused on the possibility of an amnesty for all participants in the conflict and the creation of a free economic zone in Chechnya, similar to those already operating in Ingushetia and Kaliningrad oblast. Rybkin said Chernomyrdin supported both ideas and that the prime minister’s participation "is becoming necessary at this stage of the peace process." (Ekho Moskvy, ORT, Interfax, October 28)
Unlike his predecessor Aleksandr Lebed, the cautious Rybkin has no desire to take full responsibility for settling the Chechen crisis. Lebed had also tried, without success, to involve the top leadership in the process, but Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin were careful to maintain their distance. Now that Moscow has an envoy it trusts, Chernomyrdin seems more willing to assume a key role in the peace process. Chernomyrdin met with Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev when Lebed was still Security Council secretary (see Monitor, October 4), and his role will certainly become even more significant following the appointment of the much less headstrong Rybkin, who does not have close personal contacts with the separatist leaders.
Chernomyrdin: Just a Country Boy.