Following his meeting on Wednesday in Grozny with Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin announced that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin may be the next Russian leader to visit Chechnya. Meanwhile, Rybkin said, a joint group of ten people is being set up to study the reasons why agreements reached between Russia and Chechnya have not been honored; they will report their findings to the Russian and Chechen governments. Rybkin reiterated his conviction that what is needed at the present stage are "preemptive measures to rebuild Chechnya’s economy" and not, as urged by Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, "preemptive strikes against the strongholds of Chechen fighters." (NTV, RTR, January 14. See also Monitor, January 7)
Rybkin seems to have been at least partially successful in easing the tensions provoked by Kulikov’s inflammatory statement. His negotiations are nonetheless reported to have been "extremely difficult" and, according to one anonymous member of the Russian delegation, "no major breakthroughs should be expected." The Chechen side continues to insist that Russia must pay all its debts in one lump sum, amounting to 470 billion re-denominated rubles. The Russian side is offering a maximum of 350 billion re-denominated rubles, paid in installments. (RTR, January 14)
Meanwhile, Russian deputy premier Ramazan Abdulatipov has warned that, if the Kremlin continues its present policy toward Chechnya, "it won’t be Shamil Basaev, but Salman Raduev" who will come to power in a year. (RTR, NTV, January 14) Raduev, one of the most radical Chechen field commanders, gained worldwide notoriety after his raid on the Dagestani city of Kizlyar in January 1996. He opposes negotiations and advocates continuing the war with Russia. Abdulatipov accuses Russia of spending "an indecently small" amount of money on rebuilding the Chechen economy. He says this enables radical groups in the republic to increase their influence over a disgruntled population. (NTV, RTR, January 14)
Yeltsin to Review Every Death Sentence.