Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 33

The September 13 issue of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets carried an emotional statement by Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the Union of Right Forces faction in the State Duma, which indicated that he had changed his position from a “dove” to a “hawk” concerning the war in Chechnya. Nemtsov confided that his daughter, Zhanna, had been in New York City on the day of the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center. “Now,” he declared, “there is no sense in even pronouncing the word ‘negotiations.’ All conversations should be conducted only in the language of a ‘Kalashnikov.’ All of our forces have to be directed toward destroying the [terrorist] bands. If we don’t incinerate [them], they will at some point reach the Kremlin. Incidentally, if Khattab or Basaev should dare to try something, Putin’s harsh response will have the [full] support of the Russian people and of the entire world community.” Nemtsov went on to warn: “I don’t want to believe it, but it is not excluded that we are on the threshold of a conflict of civilizations.” It is now necessary, he underscored, to declare emergency rule within Chechnya and to name a governor general, “who would be responsible for everything.” The regime web site Rosinformtsentr gleefully published the text of Nemtsov’s new statement along with the texts of several of his earlier appeals for Russia to negotiate an end to the war with the separatists (Rosinformtsentr, September 13).

On the evening of September 12, five leading members of the Union of Right Forces faction in the State Duma–Viktor Pokhmelkin, Sergei Kovalev, Sergei Ushenkov, Vladimir Golovev and Yuly Rybakov–submitted a draft resolution to the Duma Council that asks the Russian Constitutional Court “to verify the constitutionality of Boris Yeltsin’s decree of September 23, 1999 that set the rules for the antiterrorist campaign in Chechnya” (AP, September 14). Two days later, four leaders representing the Duma factions Unity and Fatherland-All Russia plus the Duma groupings “People’s Deputy” and “Regions of Russia”–Vladislav Reznik, Vyacheslav Volodin, Gennady Raikov and Oleg Morozov–issued a signed statement in which they denounced the appeal by the Union of Right Forces’ deputies to the court as “playing into the hands of the terrorists” and as “the height of cynicism,” especially in light of the recent terrorist assaults in the United States (RIA Novosti, April 14).

Commenting on the recent terrorist acts in the United States, President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya exclaimed on September 12: “I am shocked! I simply cannot believe this! Who lifted his hand in order to commit this crime? Is he a human being?… Please notify all that we in Chechnya grieve together with the American people! We share the pain and tragedy with them…. I decisively condemn all terrorist acts, and I consider that countries that connived in the terrorist acts against the United States must inevitably be punished by the world community” (, September 12).

In an interview with the weekly Obshchaya Gazeta (no. 37, September 13), President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia emphasized that negotiations with the Chechen separatists remain the sole feasible way to end the current conflict. “I am for negotiations,” he stressed. “There is no other path.”

On September 11, while speaking at the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy, Patriarch Aleksy II, the head of the official Russian Orthodox Church, declared that it is “senseless to conduct negotiations with international and internal terrorists” in Chechnya. Categorically repudiating the idea of “renewing negotiations with the rebels,” the patriarch underlined that Russia had already had a negative experience in this regard [a reference to the Khasavyurt Accords of August 1996 that brought an end to the earlier 1994-1996 conflict] (Itar-Tass, September 11).

On September 12, while speaking with reporters outside the American embassy in Moscow, the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, underlined the situation this way. “We’ve always recognized that part of the crisis that the Russians face in Chechnya is one that’s related to international terrorism. The extremist forces in Chechnya do have external sources of support, including from groups in the Middle East and South Asia, and so there is a terrorist dimension to the Chechnya conflict, but I think that we have to say that the Russian approach to solving that conflict is leading them down the wrong path. A military approach is only making a bad situation worse and we continue to emphasize our view that their interests lie in finding a political solution to the Chechnya crisis” (U.S. Department of State, September 12).