Announcing his candidacy for re-election yesterday, President Boris Yeltsin told several Yekaterinburg audiences that he would seek a conclusive military victory in Chechnya before the June 16 elections. Yeltsin indicated that Russian forces would adopt a new strategy of seeking to break up Chechen resistance forces into small groups of 40 to 50 and then destroy or seize them one by one. That concept closely parallels the district-by-district attack strategy outlined earlier this month by Russia’s commander in chief in Chechnya, Lt. General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, who said that strategy was being adopted by the general staff. Implicitly ruling out a negotiated solution, Yeltsin vowed in Yekaterinburg to seek to have Djohar Dudaev and other "bandit" leaders captured and shot. (1)
If, as they appear to be, Yeltsin’s remarks are intended as policy statements, they preempt any recommendations from the two high-level commissions that Yeltsin himself tasked only days ago to consider the full range of options and to formulate policy recommendations on Chechnya. The Russian president has said more than once recently that his re-election depends on an early end to the war in Chechnya. At the moment, he appears to have been persuaded by his most belligerent advisers to conclude that the solution lies in a quick and decisive military victory.
On the ground in Chechnya, Russian military forces yesterday blew up the presidential building in Grozny with three powerful explosions. The building, still standing following heavy damage caused by Russian bombing of the city last year, was a constant focus of pro-Dudaev demonstrations, including last week’s marathon rally. Ordinary residents interviewed by various Russian media in Grozny yesterday said that the Russian decision to blow up the building was meant as a blow to Chechen national sentiment. (2)
Yeltsin, Zyuganov Open Campaigns.