Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 190

Chechnya appears to be approaching the brink of war. On Saturday in Djohar (formerly Grozny), the All-National Congress of the Chechen People (OKChN) was reactivated during a mass meeting of the Chechen people organized by the opposition. Among the revived congress’s demands was the resignation of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Henceforth, in the words of Salman Raduev, all antigovernment activities will be carried out under the aegis of the OKChN (Kommersant daily, October 13).

In 1991, the OKChN declared Chechnya’s independence. Dzhokhar Dudaev was elected its chairman. By reactivating the OKChN, the Chechen opposition is trying to legitimize itself as the successor to the first ideologues of Chechen independence. Judging by the fact that Raduev was involved in reviving the congress, one can assume that he is counting on becoming its chairman.

Raduev, a nephew of Dudaev, won worldwide fame with the January 1996 attack on the Dagestani town of Kizlyar. After the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, Raduev proved himself to be one of the most radical and notorious Chechen field commanders. One need only recall, for example, his pronouncements–repeatedly denied by the Chechen authorities–that Dzhokhar Dudaev was alive and would soon appear before the Chechen people. Despite the signing of a peace agreement with Russia, Raduev was the only Chechen field commander to announce openly that the war with Russia would continue, with the goal being the “liberation” of the whole North Caucasus. Raduev is believed to be responsible for practically all terrorist acts which have taken place on Russian soil since the withdrawal of troops from Chechnya. The official Chechen authorities have repeatedly denounced Raduev’s activities, and, until recently, Raduev was sharply criticized by his current ally, Shamil Basaev.

Now, however, the anti-Maskhadov opposition seems to have accepted Raduev as its leader. And Raduev is apparently trying to show the Kremlin that it is he who controls the situation in Chechnya. Thus, as the Monitor recently noted, Raduev claims that it was he who freed the nine Russian servicemen released from their kidnappers on October 11, and is promising to win the release of Valentin Vlasov, Russia’s representative in Chechnya, in the near future (see the Monitor, October 13).