Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 26

During a roundtable discussion in Moscow, which was attended by Russian parliamentarians and political analysts, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, asserted that the United States now views separatist Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov with “increasing skepticism.” “Russia has not been able to catch all the terrorists (in Chechnya),” Vershbow noted in the course of his remarks. “After all, it has not been able (to arrest) Mr. Maskhadov.” These comments, Agence France Presse underlined, represented “the firmest indication from the U.S. administration to date that Washington views the separatist Chechen administration–once regarded as a group of freedom fighters by Washington–as criminals. Pressed on the subject, Vershbow backtracked from his earlier comments, noting that he did not want to slap a ‘label’ on Maskhadov. Yet he underlined that Maskhadov… was losing legitimacy in the United States.” Agence France Presse drew attention to the fact that Vershbow’s views “clashed with those of UN refugee chief Ruud Lubbers, who on a visit to Russia in January dismissed Moscow’s view of Maskhadov as a terrorist, describing him as a ‘key person’ in the search for a peace settlement” (AFP, September 9).