Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 54

There will not be a war in Chechnya,” Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin promised on March 16, following meetings in the Federation Council with heads of the North Caucasus republics. Stepashin thus disavowed his own statement that the Russia authorities were prepared to destroy guerrilla bases in Chechnya. After a week and a half of active consultations concerning the kidnapping of General Gennady Shpigun, Moscow has dropped the idea of a military campaign and is again prepared for negotiations (Kommersant daily, March 17). Just a week ago, Moscow and Djohar (Grozny) were in fact close to war. Following the abduction of Shpigun, and the exchange of ultimatums, a telephone conversation took place between Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, during which the Russian premier scolded the Chechen president for the fact that Maskhadov could not bring order even to the airport in the Chechen capital, where Shpigun was abducted. In response, Maskhadov urged Primakov to bring order to his own capital and then reportedly hung up, after which the Chechen president’s spokesman said that Maskhadov had no plans to meet with Primakov and would meet only with Yeltsin. In the end, however, Primakov also decided not to use force against Chechen guerrillas. The Kremlin administration reportedly convinced Primakov not to do so by saying that the Chechen problem will not be solved in the next year or two and that military force would not bring any positive results (Kommersant daily, March 17).

Today the Kremlin plans to invite Maskhadov to Vladikavkaz to meet with the heads of the North Caucasus republics and Primakov. The Kremlin, however, has added a condition to the meeting: During his session with Primakov, Maskhadov must name his internal enemies and accept help from Moscow against them (Kommersant daily, March 17). It is clear that Maskhadov cannot accept such conditions. His enemies are well known, but if Maskhadov agrees to fight them with Moscow’s help, his enemies will have an advantage: The meeting will confirm previous accusations that Maskhadov has betrayed Chechnya’s national interests.