Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 5

Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin referred only indirectly to Interior Minister Kulikov’s controversial call for preventive strikes yesterday, commenting that "Some people in the government want to resolve the issue of Chechnya according to the Bolshevik principle: ‘everything, and right away’… Their logic is to strike now, and think later." Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also repudiated Kulikov’s proposal yesterday without mentioning the interior minister’s name. Chernomyrdin said Russia’s relations with Chechnya should be conducted through negotiations. Government ministers had "no right" to express their "personal fantasies," Chernomyrdin said. But the prime minister did not rule out the possibility of preemptive strikes, should negotiations fail, and, most significantly, he did not pronounce any sanction on Kulikov for his inflammatory remarks. (Itar-Tass, January 8)

Indirect criticism of this kind is unlikely to mollify Grozny. An important viewpoint advanced by Chechen radicals, whose opinion President Maskhadov is forced to take into account, is that the "party of war" has acquired the upper hand in Moscow. Rybkin’s failure to confront Kulikov head-on serves as indirect confirmation of this argument. Under such circumstances, it is unlikely that the upcoming session of the joint Russian-Chechen negotiating commission, which Rybkin said is to take place next week, will be very productive.

Rybkin said joint working groups will plan imminent trips to Chechnya by Deputy Premier Ramazan Abdulatipov and Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun. According to Rybkin, Grozny has also invited the Russian Foreign Ministry to send a delegation to the republic. Rybkin also said that the Sheikh Mansur (formerly "Severny") airport in Grozny will soon receive the status of an international airport within the framework of the CIS. He said the Chechen authorities have offered to give written security guarantees to the Russian customs officials and border guards who will work there. (Russian news agencies, January 8)

Kulikov’s Call Described as Political Calculation.