Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 201

Back in Moscow after a weekend visit to the north Caucasus, President Yeltsin’s new security chief and envoy to Chechnya, Ivan Rybkin, said his talks with Chechen leaders were "very productive" and that both sides wanted peace. (BBC, October 28) This was Rybkin’s first meeting with Chechen opposition leaders. He and the newly appointed prime minister of the Chechen opposition, Aslan Maskhadov, met yesterday in Ingushetia, bordering on Chechnya. Rybkin assured the Chechen leaders that he would honor the Khasavyurt accords signed on August 31 by Maskhadov and Rybkin’s predecessor, Aleksandr Lebed. (Interfax, October 27) The Chechens, however, accused the federal government of violating these accords by keeping federal troops on Chechen territory. Moscow is insisting that the 205th brigade of Defense Ministry troops and the 101st brigade of Interior Ministry troops should remain in Chechnya on a permanent basis. Chechen foreign minister Ruslan Chimaev objected that no provision was made for their presence in any of the documents signed by the two sides. Chimaev also expressed concern over remarks made by Rybkin that referred to "incorrect steps" taken by his predecessor, Lebed. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 26)

Also yesterday, a congress of the Chechen people was held in Urus-Martan. This was the largest political gathering in Chechnya since Russia sent troops to the republic at the end of 1994. The congress was attended by 1500 delegates, representing all sections of the population and local administration as well as the Chechen diaspora. The delegates approved the decision to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on January 27. The elections are to be organized by an election commission appointed in 1992, while Djohar Dudaev was president. Current Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev had wanted the elections held earlier. (NTV, October 27) On October 25, the Russian Duma (with the sole exception of the "Yabloko" faction) adopted a resolution condemning the Chechen opposition for unilaterally forming a coalition government. (Interfax, October 25)

To some degree, all of these problems existed earlier. But Lebed, who enjoyed great authority among the Chechen leaders, was often able to persuade the Chechen side to avoid sharp statements on the grounds that such remarks might give Moscow’s "party of war" a pretext for breaking off the peace process. Rybkin does not enjoy the same authority.

Defense Minister Warns of Crisis in Army.