On September 17, at a press conference held in Moscow, Salambek Maigov, who had been a leading competitor to Aslan Maskhadov in the January 1997 Chechen presidential elections, endorsed former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s suggestion that “the status of Finland in the [tsarist] Russian Empire can suit the Chechen Republic.” The Mufti of Chechnya, Shamaev, was also to have attended the press briefing, but had to cancel due to illness (Grani.ru, September 17).
The same day, a former speaker of the Russian State Duma and secretary of the Russian Security Council, Ivan Rybkin, observed, “I relate positively to Primakov’s proposal concerning the offering to Chechnya of that status which was held by Finland in the [tsarist] Russian Empire.” Another possibility, Rybkin noted, was for Chechnya to receive “the status of a disputed territory, such as that held by the Aland Islands [of Finland], to which both Sweden and Finland had earlier made claims.” “The most important thing,” Rybkin went on to emphasize, “is to begin negotiations with those Chechens who are warring with weapons in their hands. Many politicians in Russia understand this. I am coordinating my actions with Boris Nemtsov, Grigory Yavlinsky, Mikhail Prusak, Gennady Zyuganov, Sergei Kovalev and others” (Grani.ru, September 17).
During the course of a lengthy commentary on Yevgeny Primakov’s previously published (on September 10). “Six Points on Chechnya,” journalist Mikhail Lavrov drew attention to the fact that Primakov’s peace plan provides for a viceroy or governor general of Chechnya “with broad powers and having the ability to speak in the name of the president,” who would be charged with negotiating a peace settlement with the separatists. “Perhaps Yevgeny Maksimovich [Primakov] himself,” Lavrov speculated, “would agree to do it?” (Presscenter.ru, September 17).