Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 95

Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin insisted in a radio interview yesterday that "none of the points in the peace treaty between Chechnya and Russia signed on May 12 contradicts Russian legislation." Moreover, he said, the document does not discuss the status of Chechnya. "The [August 1996] Khasavyurt accords remain in force, and the [question of] Chechnya’s status will be postponed until December 31, 2001," according to Rybkin. (Ekho Moskvy, May 13)

In reality, however, the Kremlin virtually recognized the republic’s independence when it signed the peace treaty between Russia and Chechnya this week in the Kremlin. The text of the document makes clear that the treaty was signed not by a subject of the Russian Federation and the colonial center but between two states possessing equal rights, both of which, the treaty acknowledges, are subjects of international law. Moreover, the treaty speaks of peace and relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Moscow had long rejected this formulation, on which the Chechen side insisted from the beginning. Moscow rightly argued that a peace treaty can be signed only by an independent state, not by a subject of the Federation. Clearly, the Kremlin cannot admit defeat so soon, and Rybkin is therefore being forced to resort to legal casuistry to explain his position.

Rybkin went on to argue that the peace treaty "will allow the government of Chechnya, and President Aslan Maskhadov in particular, to consolidate their power." (Ekho Moskvy, May 13) It appears that Moscow made its abrupt decision to sign the treaty in order to bolster Maskhadov’s position, since he is the most acceptable of all possible Chechen leaders to the Kremlin. But Moscow is merely choosing the lesser of two evils. Chechnya has long been de facto independent and attempts to force it back into the Russian fold ended in failure. If the Kremlin continues to pretend that Chechnya is part of Russia, this policy will reduce Moscow’s chances of influencing the situation in the republic. The political situation in Chechnya is not developing favorably from the Kremlin’s point of view: Maskhadov’s position is shaky and there is a real danger he may be replaced by someone with more radical views in terms of relations with Moscow — Shamil Basaev, for example. Moscow hopes its decision to recognize the republic’s independence (for that is how the treaty is seen in Chechnya) will boost Maskhadov’s popularity and reduce the chances of his replacement.

Berezovsky Announces Steps Toward Economic Reconstruction of Chechnya.