Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 103

Russian president Boris Yeltsin yesterday paid a four-hour visit to Chechnya in fulfillment of his electoral campaign pledge to visit the republic. On his first-ever visit there, Yeltsin did not venture into Grozny or to any other area laid waste by Russian forces. He landed by helicopter in a loyal, partly Russian-populated village in northern Chechnya, addressed troops on the Russian military base at Severny airport outside Grozny, and held a Soviet-style meeting on that same base with token "representatives of the public" preselected by local authorities.

Yeltsin strongly endorsed the Moscow-installed Grozny authorities headed by Doku Zavgaev as Chechnya’s legitimate government and reaffirmed the plan to have those authorities conduct Chechen parliamentary elections June 16 concurrently with Russia’s presidential election. In addition, Yeltsin announced that the federal center would shortly publish a draft of Chechnya’s special status within the Russian Federation for discussion and signing with Zavgaev and would entrust the same authorities with drafting a Chechen constitution stipulating the republic’s status as an "inalienable part of Russia." The Russian president demonstratively instructed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin by telephone from Severny to allocate 900 billion rubles within three days for reconstruction aid. The aid will be channeled through the Grozny authorities.

Yeltsin at the same time publicly instructed his Defense and Internal Affairs Ministers, Pavel Grachev and Anatoly Kulikov, to refrain from any military operations except in response to "provocations," but he also warned that any "bandit" groups refusing to surrender arms would be destroyed. While making several references to the agreement signed with resistance leaders in the Kremlin May 27, Yeltsin’s remarks exposed the limits and gaps in that agreement, which does not address the political settlement of the conflict. Yeltsin’s speeches suggest that the May 27 agreement is seen as a stopgap measure designed primarily to procure tranquillity until the June 16 presidential election. (Russian and Western agencies, May 28)

Cautious Applause for Chechnya Cease-fire.