Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 9

Yeltsin decree shows who really planned Chechnya operation

by Victor Yasmann

There are two traditional Russian questions: "What is tobe done?" and "Who is to blame?" In recent years,they have been combined, and people ask "What is to be donewith those who are guilty?" During the recent governmentcrisis arising out of the Chechen war and the terrorist raid onBudennovsk, this question has taken the form: "Who is toblame for the Chechen war and what should be done with them?

Last week, the Russian parliament appeared to give its answerwhen it passed a motion of no confidence in the government ofPrime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as a way of getting at theso-called power ministers: defense minister Pavel Grachev, interiorminister Viktor Yerin, intelligence chief Sergei Stepashin, andseveral other hardliners. The Duma voted against the governmentas a whole because it has no other way of getting at these men,whom most deputies appear to believe share primary responsibilityfor the war in Chechnya and for the failure of the authoritiesto prevent the Budennovsk tragedy. For many in the parliament,the target was not Chernomyrdin, who has been less than enthusiasticabout the war all along, and who engineered the freeing of thehostages, the establishment of a cease-fire, and the holding ofpeace talks.

After the Duma vote, the government–Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin–wenton the offense, demanding a vote of confidence in the government,suggesting that one or more of the power ministers might be replaced,and forcing the Duma deputies to contemplate early elections ifthey again voted against Chernomyrdin who has been riding highwith the population because of his steps in Chechnya. All thismaneuvering, which now appears to be at an end with a compromiselargely favoring the government, has obscured, but not answeredthe fundamental Russian question.

A recently-published document on the beginning of the Chechenwar provides some help in answering both who was responsible andhence who should be blamed. Published in Novoye vremya,no. 14, the document is Yeltsin’s November 30,1994 decree "Onmeasures for the Restoration of the Constitutional Order and Enforcementof Laws in the Chechen Republic." This decree, issued onlyten days before Moscow sent the Russian army into Chechnya, andpublished only recently as the result of a court challenge toYeltsin by members of the parliament, outlines both the goalsof the military operation and the membership of the working groupresponsible for ensuring that the goals were met. Chaired bydefense minister Pavel Grachev, the group includes, in additionto the other power ministers just mentioned, a number of peoplewhose names have not been mentioned before and who have thus notbeen blamed for what went wrong. Among this latter group are thedirector of the Federal Agency for Government Communications andInformation (FAPSI), the director of the State Customs Committee,and a first deputy foreign minister.

The decree does not specify whom these people report to and whosepolicies they are to implement, but the answer to that questionis obvioiusly: the Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. All thesecurity agencies involved are subordinate to him and his innercircle. But until the appearance of this document, none of thenames of these people had been linked to the Chechen war or toBudennovsk.

More interesting and more important is what the decree specifiesas Moscow’s strategy for conducting the war. Indeed, Moscow hasfollowed each of the steps listed in the decree–a frontal attackon Grozny, control of the Chechen frontiers, the establishmentof a special martial law regime in the region, and ultimately"organizing negotiations for the ending of the armed conflictby peaceful means." The inclusion of such a provision ina document issued before the invasion of Chechnya suggests justwhy Chernomyrdin took the steps he did when he did and just whois responsible for both.

As has been noted before, the Chechen war involved at least threeinterests for the Russian government: a desire to control theexport of oil from Azerbaijan and Central Asia and hence the abilityto dominate these regions, an imperial reassertion of power, andthe destruction of Chechen mafia clans competing with Russianones. At the beginning of the war, when Moscow was still seekingto establish its control over the lowlands, Chernomyrdin and hisoil constituency were supportive of Moscow’s polices. Once theRussian troops had occupied the lowlands–the only part of Chechnyathat the prime minister and his clients needed for their purposes–Chernomyrdinbegan to seek a way of talking to the government of Dzhokhar Dudayevin order to end the war. Just as Yeltsin’s November 1994 decreerequired.

In this connection, it is worth noting whom Chernomyrdin hasselected to be his interlocutor at the peace talks in Grozny:Uman Imayev. Officially, Imayev has served as general prosecutorand director of the Chechen National Bank in Dudayev’s administration. Unofficially, however, he has played a bigger role. He mastermindedthe so-called Aviso affair in 1992-93 when Russian businessmenand officials sent billions of rubles abroad via Chechnya. Nowthat he is serving as the chief of the Chechen delegation, thefirst and the second aspects of the Yeltsin plan come together.

Despite the suggestions that Yeltsin has planned the whole thing,and that the Chechen conflict is coming to an end, ever more peoplein the Russian government recognize that this war is far fromover. As a result, Duma members and other Russians are likelyto continue their search for scapegoats. Yeltsin’s decree, publishedin translation below, is a good place for them to start.

Victor Yasmann is a Senior Analyst at the Jamestown Foundation.


A Decreee of the President of the Russian Federation:

On Measures for the Restoration of the Constitutional Orderand the Enforcement of Laws on the Territory of the Chechen Republic

In connection with the continuation of the armed conflict inthe Chechen Republic, the refusal of those involved to cease fire,surrender their arms, disperse their armed formations, free allhostqges, and the destruction of the civilian population, andin correspondence with Article 88 of the Constitution of the RussianFederation and the Law of the RSFSR "On the Introductionof a Special Regime" and the law of the Russian Federation"On security,"

I direct

1. the taking of measures for the restoration of constitutionalorder and law in the Chechen Republic according to the followingplan beginning at 0600 on December 1, 1994..

2. the creation of a Group for the leadership of actions forthe disarming and liquidation of armed formations, the introductionand support of a special regime on the territory of the ChechenRepublic (hereafter referred to as the Group) to include the followingpersons:

–P.S. Grachev……………………..Minister of Defense ofthe Russian Federation (leader)

–N.D. Yegorov…………………….Minister of the RussianFederation for Nationality Affairs

and Regional Policy

–V.F. Yerin………………………….Minister of InternalAffairs of the Russian Federation

–A.S. Kruglov………………………Chairman of the StateCustoms Committee of the Russian


–A.S. Kulikov……………………….Deputy Minister ofInternal Affairs of the Russian


–A.I. Nikolayev……………………..Commander, Border Forcesof the Russian Federation

–V.N. Panichev……………………..Deputy General Prosecutorof the Russian Federation and Chief Military Prosecutor(by agreement)

–B.N. Pastukhov…………………….Deputy Minister of ForeignAffairs of the Russian


–A.V. Starovoitov…………………..General Director ofthe Federal Agency of Government Communications andInformation attached to the Office of the Presidentof the Russian Federation

–S.V. Stepashin………………………Director, FederalCounterintelligence Service of the Russian Federation

–P.P. Shirshov………………………..Chairman of the Committeon Problems of Security and Defense of the FederationCouncil (by agreement)

–S.N. Yushenkov…………………….Chairman of the Committeeeon Defense of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly(by agreement)

3. the granting to the leader of the Group, P.S. Grachev, plenopotentiaryauthority for the coordination of the activities of federal organsof executive power and forces for the guaranteeing of securityin the realization of the plan of measures for the restorationof constitutional order and legality in the Chechen Republic,for the power to compel as needed the involvement of necessaryofficials in the work of restoring order in Chechnya up to andincluding the right to remove them from their jobs, and also forthe use of means and resources directed toward the resolutionof tasks for the reestablishment of constitutional order and legalityin the Chechen republic.

–the establishment of the principle that the directives andorders of the leader of the Group, P.S. Grachev, are obligatoryfor the organs of executive power, organs of internal affairs,organs of coutnerintelligence, military units of the internaltroops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federationand the Border Forces of the Russian Federation, enterprises,organizations and institutions, and also responsible individualstaking part in the realization of the plan of measures for therestoration of constitutional order and legality in the ChechenRepublic.

4. the laying onto the group of the following basic tasks:

–guaranteeing an end to armed conflicts, the disarming and liquidationof armed formations on the territory of the Chechen republic;

–organizing actions for the liberation of those held captive;

–organizing the establishment of a special regime for entranceand exit and also a special order on movement in the zone of thespecial legal regime;

–guaranteeing as needed the activity of the special forms ofadministration on the territory of the Chechen Republic;

–creating the conditions for the restoration of legality inthe Chechen republic;

–organizing negotiations for the ending of the armed conflicton the territory of the Chechen Republic by peaceful means; and

–the development of proposals for the organization of foreignpolicy and information support for this program of the normalizationof the situation in the Checehn Republic and also to provide immediatehumanitarian assistance to the population.

5. The current decree enters into form from the moment of itssigning.

The President of the Russian Federation

B. Yeltsin

Moscow, The Kremlin

November 30, 1994 .