Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 202

Last Thursday (October 29) Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov met for the first time with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. The meeting took place in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz. Security for the meeting was heavy: An estimated 5,000 troops, including forces of the North Ossetian Interior Ministry, were deployed in Vladikavkaz. According to Primakov, he and Maskhadov came to the conclusion, during two hours of discussions, that both sides must work to overcome the consequences of armed conflict and current contradictions, and find a unified position that will suit both sides. Primakov said that in order to achieve this, the southern Russian regions adjacent to Chechnya should be brought into the negotiating process. He also said that the discussions included creating a joint commission to search for persons who disappeared during the war in Chechnya, as well as allocating money in the federal budget to make payments to pensioners, teachers, doctors and veterans who live in Chechnya. For his part, Chechen President Maskhadov emphasized that it is important for agreements reached earlier between Moscow and Grozny be implemented. Primakov said he telephoned Yeltsin to brief him on the results of the meeting. Primakov also met Thursday (October 29) with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, along with Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev and Valery Kokov, both of whom traveled to Vladikavkaz for the meeting (Nezavisimaya gazeta, NTV, October 30).

Despite the fact that both Maskhadov and Primakov viewed the meeting as successful, there was no breakthrough in Russian-Chechen relations. The two sides not only did not conclude any concrete agreements, but they failed to clarify the prospects for the further development of Russian-Chechen relations. What is clear is that, as before, particular importance is being attached to the transportation of oil, the provision of pensions and the issue of employment for the Chechen population. On Friday (October 30), Yevgeny Savostyanov, deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin’s administration, said that creating a system for the flow of energy from the Caspian region would be Russia’s main policy challenge for the next century. He added that it was, however, impossible to build such a system without taking Chechnya’s problems into account (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 30).

In Chechnya itself, opponents of President Maskhadov tried to use the Vladikavkaz meeting to discredit him. Participants in a congress of Chechen war veterans–which took place under the patronage of field commanders Shamil Basaev, Salman Raduev and Khunkarpasha Israpilov–characterized the Maskhadov-Primakov meeting as the Chechen president’s latest act of treason (NTV, October 29).