Russia’s relations with Chechnya topped the agenda yesterday when President Yeltsin chaired a meeting of the Russian Security Council devoted to the North Caucasus. Also on the agenda was the Ingush-Ossetian conflict, followed by interethnic tensions in Dagestan and the need, in general, for Russia to develop a coherent policy toward the region. Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin told journalists afterward that Moscow would shortly be appointing an emissary to the region who will represent both the president and the Russian government.
Indicating the importance Moscow attaches to the region, Rybkin said this official would have the rank of deputy prime minister. He said the most likely candidate for the post is recently appointed deputy prime minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, a Dagestani who has for many years been an active member of the Russian parliament. Andulatipov was named yesterday by Yeltsin, along with Rybkin, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and presidential chief of staff Valentin Yumashev, to represent the federal side on the joint Russian-Chechen commission drafting the new treaty that Yeltsin is now clearly determined to sign with Chechnya. (RTR, August 20) Rybkin said the emissary would be based in Mineralnye vody, a mountainous spa in Stavropol Krai that serves as a rail junction for the whole region and was also a favorite holiday resort for Politburo members in the Soviet period. It was there that, as an up and coming young Party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev made the acquaintance of vacationing KGB boss Yury Andropov — a friendship that led, indirectly, to the collapse of the USSR.
Russia’s preoccupation with the North Caucasus is perennial. It is rooted in age-old Russian perceptions of the need for security on its southern border and, more recently, in Moscow’s determination to share in the riches expected to flow from Caspian oil deposits. But Yeltsin made it clear yesterday that Russia has also been alarmed by the heightened attention now being paid to the region by policymakers in the United States. "New and alarming tendencies" have recently been observed in the region, Yeltsin told the Security Council yesterday. The vital interests of Russia and its CIS partners in the region are, he went on, coming under challenge from assertions by U.S. policymakers that the North Caucasus represents a zone of U.S. interests. "As our interest fades, the United States is making no secret of its moves to penetrate this zone," Yeltsin said. (RTR, August 20)
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