Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 213

Russian security council secretary Ivan Rybkin yesterday visited Chechnya and took part in the work of the joint commission on regulating the Chechen peace process. In the evening, Rybkin met in Nazran with members of the Chechen government. The leaders of the other North Caucasus republics and the governor of Stavropol krai were also present. (Interfax, November 12) The main item on the agenda in both Nazran and Grozny was restoration of the Chechen economy. Moscow continues to support the idea of creating a free economic zone on the territory of Chechnya. According to the draft proposal currently being discussed by the Russian government and Duma, Chechnya would be exempt from paying taxes to Moscow but would receive no money from the federal budget.

This will hardly satisfy the Chechen leaders, who are demanding compensation from Moscow for the damage done to the republic during 21 months of fighting. According to Chechen deputy premier Movladi Udugov, a special commission is already taking inventory in order to assess the damage done by the Russian army. Moreover, Udugov says, there are 100,000 armed, unemployed men in Chechnya with families to feed. If Moscow refuses to pay compensation, these men will be tempted to take their weapons in search of money in the regions of Russia bordering Chechnya. (NTV, November 10)

Russia appears, however, to have no intention of paying compensation unilaterally. "When there is a fight, both sides suffer damage, and both sides need compensation," Rybkin told journalists at Grozny airport. (NTV, November 12) A further stumbling block arises from Moscow’s proposal to create a special administration in the free economic zone on the territory of Chechnya, directly subordinate to the federal center, which would therefore become the highest government body in Chechnya. Naturally, this proposal is unacceptable to Chechen leaders, who say Chechnya is an independent state.

Disagreement on these questions apparently prompted the two sides to agree in Nazran to postpone for two and a half months the signing of a new bilateral agreement. Moscow may be hoping that, during this time, the leaders of the war-torn republic, which is half-destroyed and absolutely unprepared for the winter cold, will become more tractable. (NTV, November 12)

Russia to Increase Support to CIS Countries.