Kavkazky Uzel reported that on July 5, a group of officials of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) held a press conference in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. One of the participants, Seilam Bechaev, who is deputy chairman of the ChRI parliament, told the website by telephone from Strasbourg that he and the other participants in the press conference, including separatist presidential representative Umar Khanbiev, said that the rebel movement’s new president, Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, remains committed to the policy of his predecessor, Aslan Maskhadov, in support of a peaceful resolution of the Chechen conflict through a dialogue between the warring sides. More explicitly, Bechaev said that Sadulaev is calling on the Kremlin to sit down at the negotiating table and is ready to meet with any official representative of the Russian government at any time without preconditions.
Bechaev’s description of Sadulaev’s willingness to negotiate without preconditions would, if accurate, appear to represent a significant change in position. In an interview that Sadulaev gave to the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Aman last month (which was also published in the Turkish periodical Milli Gazete), Sadulaev also said he intended to “continue President Maskhadov’s course” but described that course as being predicated on the notion that Russia is unwilling to negotiate and that “the war can be stopped only with the help of war.” “This is why we will keep fighting for as long as required,” Sadulaev said. In a videotaped Chechen-language appeal to the Chechen people posted by the Kavkazcenter website on June 20, Sadulaev indicated that the war would not end even if federal forces were expelled from Chechnya (see Chechnya Weekly, June 22).