Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 39

Sanobar Shermatova of Moskovskie novosti told Chechnya Weekly in an October 20 telephone interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin may decide to launch negotiations with the rebels even before Russia’s presidential elections scheduled for next spring. Such negotiations, in which federal officials would probably not participate directly, would have to bypass Akhmad Kadyrov; a special commission might be created for this purpose, one that would include prominent Chechens who are not under Kadyrov’s control. (Two possible participants mentioned by Shermatova are Umar Avturkhanov and Salambek Maigov.) At this point, in her view, the conflicts among the Chechens themselves are more complicated and more dangerous than the conflicts between Chechens and Russians; thus, for example, Maskhadov is prepared to negotiate with Moscow but not with Kadyrov.

A possible model for a peace settlement in Chechnya, Shermatova suggested, might be the compromise in Tajikistan that ended that country’s civil war in the 1990s–though the situation there was easier because Tajikistan was already legally independent and Russia did not seek to change that status. Negotiating for Moscow, Yevgeny Primakov was able to find a common language with the rebels that took into account the interests of the Russian military. This would be a challenge in Chechnya, where Putin is having great difficulty managing his own generals.

In any case, she said, such negotiations would be “long and difficult. Chechens are not good at negotiating.” The final outcome might be the appointment of Kadyrov to some position in the federal government, such as representative from Russia to the Islamic Conference.

Shermatova also said that, according to some unconfirmed reports, the Kremlin is considering the option of giving Chechnya two seats in the federal Duma, which is to be elected in December. Currently the republic has only one.