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Conflict Studies Reseach Centre

Charles Blandy

Chechen Status - Wide Differences Remain


P27 January 1998


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the UK Ministry of Defence


  • Introduction 4
  • Negotiations on Status 5
  • The Russo-Chechen Treaty of 12 May 1997 5
  • Unremitting Chechen Pressure on Moscow 7
  • The Maskhadov-Yel'tsin Meeting of 18 Augist 1997 in Moscow 8
  • Fourth Round of Russo-Chechen Consultations (28 September 1997) 13
  • Brief Comparison of Treaty and Draft Treaty Documents 15
  • Wide Differences 15
  • Russo-Chechen Draft Treaty (Annex A) 16
  • The Checheno-Russian Draft Treaty (Annex B) 17
  • The "Bashlam" Draft Treaty (Annex C) 17
  • Summary of Present Stage in Negotiating Process 17
  • Future Hopes 18
  • Prospect of Third Meeting between Maskhadov and Yel'tsin 18
  • Need for Presidential Resuscitation in Negotiation Process 19
  • Other Factors Affecting Russo-Chechen Relationship 21
  • Prudent Russian Precaution or Precursor of Tightening Blockade? 21
  • Chechen Concerns over Blockade and Subsequent Isolation 21
  • Problems for Chechnya from Enforced Blockade 24
  • Kidnapping and Holding Hostages to Ransom 29
  • Delays in Restoration for Chechen Economy 30
  • Synopsis of Subsidiary Meetings, Intentions and Agreements 30
  • Areas Requiring Urgent Remedial Attention 32
  • Displaced Persons, Refugees and Forced Migrants' 32
  • Chechen Unemployment 33
  • Summary 33
  • Chechen Moves towards Establishment of External Contacts 34
  • The Assistance of Tatarstan 34
  • The Georgian Connection 35
  • The Caucasus Common Market 37
  • Summary 37
  • "Islamic Republic of Chechnya" 38
  • The Announcement 38
  • Increase in Opposition from Moscow 38
  • Reaction from World Community 39
  • Summary 41
  • Strains within the Chechen Government 41
  • The Problem 41
  • Teip Power 41
  • Need for Compromise in Formation of Government in February 1997 43
  • Speculation about Erosion of President's Power 44
  • Positive Remedial Action by the President 47
  • Summary and Conclusions 52
  • Annex A - Russo-Chechen Treaty - Draft of Russian Federation Delegation 56
  • Annex B - Checheno-Russian Federation Treaty - Draft of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria's Delegation 60
  • Annex C - The Checheno-Tatarstan Treaty of 21 May 1997 63
  • Annex D - Chechen-Russian Peace Treaty of 21 May 1997 65
  • Annex E - Khasauyurt Agreement 30/31 August 1997 Joint Declaration 66
  • Annex F - Khasavyurt Agreement 30/31 August 1997 Principles 67
  • Annex G - (Draft) Treaty Concerning the Basics of Mutual Relations Between The Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic 68
  • Annex H - Russian Federation-Tatarstan Treaty - 15 February 1997 72



by Charles Blandy


"Deep disagreements lie behind the handshaking and smiles".

Following the theme of two earlier papers, the purpose of this paper is to provide an update on the progress or lack of it regarding the work of the Russo-Chechen Joint Commission on the future relationship and demarcation of powers between Russia and Chechnya. The evolving situation surrounding the status of Chechnya and in the Caucasus as a whole, tells us much about the coordination and state of governance in the Kremlin, whether "the orchestra plays to the conductor's baton" and whether there is any evidence of a single, consolidated policy for the North Caucasus. The paper notes the lack of progress of the various subsidiary agreements, the possibilities of Western economic involvement and examines the evidence as to the possible intention to further isolate Chechnya by imposing a strengthened economic blockade for, "At present the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria remains under blockade, where even shoes, shoes for children, are being described as strategic goods and where even humanitarian goods are not being allowed into the territory of our republic".

At the time of writing it is some 18 months since the Khasavyurt Accords of 30/31 August 1996 were signed by Alexandr Lebed and Aslan Maskhadov. Not only did the Accords bring an official cessation of hostilities between Russian and Chechen but also, "An agreement on the basis of mutual cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic, to be determined in accordance with the universally recognised principles and norms of international law [which] must be achieved by 31 December 2001". Perhaps of equal importance and urgency is the fact that the Russian Presidential elections are only some 35 months away. Whilst conflict has ceased, progress in achieving a settlement on the main issue, the status of the Chechen Republic and its relationship with Moscow and the Russian Federation (RF), appears ever more elusive. Other outstanding questions still remain concerning restoration of the economy, reconstruction of the infrastructure, reparation for war damage and the payment of compensation by the Russian Federation to the homeless and refugees, although there would appear to be some signs of progress on the transportation of early' Baku oil across Chechnya to Novorossiysk.


For ease of reference, translations of the various treaty documents and drafts are contained in annexes as shown below:

Table 1 - Treaty Documents involving Russia, Chechnya and Tatarstan



Treaty or Treaty (Draft) Document

Annex A

August 1997

Russian Federation Chechen Treaty (Draft)

Annex B

August 1997

Chechen-Russian Federation Treaty (Draft)

Annex C

21 May 1997

Tatarstan-Chechen Treaty signed in Kazan'

Annex D

12 May 1997

Russo-Chechen Treaty signed in Moscow

Annex E

31 August 1996

Khasavyurt Accords Joint Agreement

Annex F

31 August 1996

Khasavyurt Accords Principles

Annex G

24 July 1996

"Bashlam" Draft Treaty

Annex H

15 February 1994

Russian Federation-Tatarstan Treaty

The main steps in the negotiating process since May between Moscow and Groznyy on the question of their future relationship are shown in Table 2 below.

The Russo-Chechen Treaty of 12 May 1997

Before examining relations between Moscow and Groznyy since May 1997, it is perhaps important to return to the Russo-Chechen Treaty of 12 May 1997. This treaty, "a Treaty on Peace and the Principles of Relationships between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria", established three principles which are repeated in Box 1.

Table 2 - Significant Steps in Negotiating Process between 1 May and 30 September 1997


Significant Step

12 May 1997

1st meeting of President Boris Yel'tsin and President Aslan Maskhadov in Moscow resulting in Russo-Chechen (Fig-leaf) Treaty.

18 August 1997

2nd Meeting of President Boris Yel'tsin and President Aslan Maskhadov in Moscow resulting in agreement to produce comprehensive and wide-ranging treaty between Russian Federation and Chechnya.

26-28 September 1997

Fourth Round of Joint Russo-Chechen Consultations.

Box 1 - Treaty on Peace and Principles of Relationships

between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

The High Contracting Parties, desiring to end the many-centuries long confrontation and striving for establishing firm, equal rights, mutually beneficial relations, agreed:

1. To refuse for ever the use or the threat of the use of force in solving any issues of dispute.

2. To build their relations in accordance with universally recognised principles and norms of International Law; in this the Parties interact in the spheres defined by specific agreements.

3. The treaty is the basis for the conclusion of further treaties and agreements in the whole complex of relationships.

This treaty was greeted warmly by both the official Russian and Chechen sides. In the words of President Boris Yel'tsin "We have signed a peace treaty which is bound to have historic importance since it puts to an end 400 years of war". President Maskhadov's reaction was no less euphoric:

Box 2 - Extracts from President Maskhadov's Speech on 12 May 1997

"Today we have pulled the rug from under the feet of those people who have been ordering terrorist acts and kidnappings . . . Only when undefined relations exist for far too long, when there is no peace treaty, then conditions emerge which are conducive for opponents of the peace process. Those who order terrorist acts and kidnappings are pursuing only one goal - the failure of the peace process. They want to show the whole world that the Chechen authorities have no control over the situation. By signing this document we have demonstrated to the whole world that the peace process has succeeded.

In general terms amongst the people of Chechnya and Russia the treaty was welcomed. For the Russians it meant that the very worst scenario in modern times which had affected their lives would appear to have abated, enabling normality to return, maybe even permitting the return of soldiers held hostage and establishing what had happened to the missing. For the power-wielding structures concerned with the maintenance of Russian influence in the Transcaucasus and Caspian all efforts could now be turned to securing the pipeline agreement for early' Baku oil to transit the Caucasus to Novorossiysk via Grozny.

Unremitting Chechen Pressure on Moscow

Need for Full Scale Treaty On 28 July 1997 Maskhadov requested the state commission on negotiations with Russia to draft a full scale treaty with the Russian Federation which envisaged "the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states and the opening of embassies in Moscow and Groznyy". At the same time, as a result of certain statements made by the Russian leadership concerning bilateral agreements concluded between the federal centre and another entity of the Russian Federation, President Maskhadov said that Chechnya had been forced to make this step, as there were fears that the positions won in the Khasavyurt Accords in 1996 were being eroded, for "We are not talking about discarding the agreements signed earlier but work must be started to bring relations between Russia and Chechnya to the standard level of ties enjoyed by sovereign states".

Measures to Strengthen Independence President Maskhadov announced on 6 August 1997 that relations with Russia would be based on an interstate treaty, in which Islam will be the bedrock of the Chechen state. He continued by saying that Chechnya also stands for a consolidated Caucasus and called for the creation of an organisation for security and cooperation in the Caucasus: "The Caucasus should be a free shared house for all peoples living here" and furthermore Chechnya would also adopt "its own passports, vehicle licence plates and Chechen would become the official language of ministries and departments".

Mounting Pressure before Second Maskhadov-Yel'tsin Meeting On 10 August 1997, President Maskhadov stated that he intended to conduct the forthcoming talks with the Kremlin on the basis that "relations with Russia are determined by the peace treaty of 12 May 1997 and built on the norms and principles of International Law". It was his intention to propose to Russia a full-scale interstate treaty providing for the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of their respective embassies in Moscow and Groznyy. For the Chechen government in its negotiations with Moscow, the Russo-Chechen Treaty of 12 May 1997 has acquired great significance and in particular the wording in Clause 2 "To build their relations in accordance with universally recognised principles and norms of International Law" , because not only does it echo precisely the thrust of the wording contained in the Principles of the Khasavyurt Accords (Annex F) but according to the Chechens it also makes them a subject of International Law and lends support to their view that they have never been a constituent part of the Russian Federation. Although the interview with Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakayev (Box 3 below) took place some six weeks later and after the Maskhadov-Yel'tsin meeting, it very much exemplifies the Chechen official position and mind set.

Box 3 - Extract from Interview with Akhmed Zakayev on 26 September 1997 "Chechnya has never been part of the Russian Federation"

[Q] . . . Chechnya must officially leave Russia. There is no procedure for this, because what is being set up now is a sort of . . .

[A, interrupting] No, let me disagree with you, because Chechnya has never been part of the Russian Federation. . . . In the space of seven years of talks, not a single delegation has been able to provide grounds for their claims to Chechnya, for the simple reason that there are no documents showing Chechnya ever being part of the Russian Federation.

[Q] Well, it was part of the former Soviet Union.

[A] Part of the former Soviet Union, but when Mikhail Gorbachev began to create a renewed USSR, the USSR Supreme Soviet passed a decision stating that all constituent parts of the Rusian Federation and all the autonomous republics could join the new USSR as separate republics. The Republic of Chechnya chose to leave not the Russian Federation, but the Soviet Union and this is the first point to bear in mind.

The Maskhadov-Yel'tsin Meeting of 18 August 1997 in Moscow

The second meeting of the Presidents of Russia and Chechnya took place on 18 August 1997. Although lasting for 90 minutes, it did not take one step toward the granting of independence to Chechnya as the leaders in Groznyy had calculated and anticipated. As many had predicted, including President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia, no global treaties were signed, but Aslan Maskhadov handed over a draft Chechen treaty. Both sides restricted themselves to declarations of intent to strengthen their bilateral relations with the future conclusion of a wide-ranging, all embracing and comprehensive document which identified the coincidental interests of Russia and Chechnya in the spheres of economics and defence. In the words of President Yel'tsin in the near future a joint Russo-Chechen group would be created for the preparation of a treaty between Russia and the Chechen Republic which "will to a certain extent, increase the sovereignty of the Chechen Republic". President Yel'tsin also remarked that in the event of contradictions arising in the course of this work "As with Shaymiyev, we will sit down together and cut this knot" . The Russian President confirmed his readiness to go so far down this road as a result of signing a treaty with Chechnya on "a joint economic space, a joint defence and aviation space". Boris Yel'tsin also emphasised that more than a little attention had been devoted to financial and social questions, where the Presidents found that they were working from different figures. Box 4 below provides a brief insight into the problem.

Box 4 - Discrepancies in Transfer of Funds from Moscow to Groznyy

So in his words, by the end of 1997 a graph must be made of the transfer of funds to the state budget of Chechnya. At the very same time the Russian leader advised that he and his Chechen colleague had different figures on the financial transfers from the Centre to Chechnya: "800 mlrd roubles ($800,000,000,000 roubles) had been transferred, but in the National Bank of Chechnya there were only 120 mlrd roubles". In the opinion of the [Russian] President this was a result of insufficient control. "This money, the devil knows where it has gone".

Whilst both Presidents were pleased with the way the meeting had gone, particularly with the agreement to set up a joint Russo-Chechen Commission to work on the all-embracing treaty which would set out and govern the future relationship between Russia and Chechnya, questions regarding the fate of the hostage journalists and military personnel still held captive in Chechnya were raised by the Russian President's Press-Secretary, Sergey Yastrzhembskiy. Increasing lawlessness throughout the North Caucasus, the prevalent hostage-kidnapping, the failure to obtain the release of Russian servicemen detained in Chechnya and inability to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing, together with the issue of Chechen independence, now rapidly giving the appearance of an inevitable transition from a de facto to de jure secession, are understandably emotive issues in the Russian State Duma, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and within the Russian military. Opposition to the President granting Chechnya almost total independence is a distinct possibility from two directions, first from the Duma and the power ministries for "the President of Russia on the question of separating territory from this country cannot side step the Duma" and secondly from the shadowy Third Force' or the appropriately named Party of War'.

It is significant that the meeting lasted for a good 90 minutes. It is significant too, that they both thought that the meeting had gone well. It would not be surprising if President Yel'tsin during the course of their meeting found that despite their diametrically opposed positions, he began to warm to and to appreciate the fact that he was talking with a man of both moral and physical courage, who was modest about himself and his achievements, but who was above all a man of integrity and honesty who had the interests of his people at heart. Perhaps it was indeed a refreshing experience for a Russian President, surrounded by a circle of officials and politicians, imbued with the aspirations of self-aggrandisement and swathed in deep layers of corruption, to meet a straight and honest man. A further observation would be that Yel'tsin, certainly after this latest meeting, probably actually wants to help Maskhadov because if the Chechen problem can be resolved, then the other problems in the North Caucasus facing Moscow assume a lesser urgency.

The Editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 18 August 1997 following this latest round of talks between Presidents Yel'tsin and Maskhadov, made some telling points about the relationship between Groznyy and Moscow and furthermore stated that this latest Presidential meeting had confirmed the existence of three trends which were detrimental to Moscow's interests.

Box 5 - The Maskhadov-Yel'tsin Meeting confirmed 3 Negative Trends for Moscow

1. The initiative on Chechen-Russian relations is completely in the hands of Groznyy.

2. The Kremlin and - wider - Moscow simply does not know what to do with Chechnya.

3. Chechnya is accelerating the tempo not only for factual but juridical separation from Russia.

Furthermore, it recommended:

"Look not at the flowing encapsulating words of Ivan Rybkin which signify, alas, simply utter feebleness in the face of Chechen pressure, but on the events and facts of the previous week. Groznyy has sharply raised the plank of absolutely all its demands. It continually and openly talks about its own real independence and demands that Moscow only acknowledge the status of Chechnya officially".

The Editorial also made comparisons concerning the effectiveness in approach and negotiation of the two sides. Some of these observations are contained in Table 3 below.

Table 3 - Comparisons of Effectiveness of the Two Sides



1. "Groznyy skillfully plays the Georgia card against Moscow. Groznyy exclusively manipulates the fortunes of Russian hostages for its own political objectives. Groznyy - through the lips of Movladi Udugov - gives a full and favourable account of itself concerning the course of preparations for the visit of Maskhadov to Moscow".

2. "Udugov comments, analyses and forecasts developments of Russo-Chechen relations giving public recommendations to Yel'tsin".

1. "The official functionaries and multitude of semi-official experts on Chechnya in Russia, take a mouthful of water as if to prevent them saying anything coarser. . .in Moscow there is no one single line, the Moscow officials dread to say anything definite, they dread their own boss, to whom they say nothing as well, and therefore it is difficult to know what to say".

2. "No one from the Russian official functionaries dares to refute Udugov or argue with him".

Table 3 (Cont.) - Comparisons of Effectiveness of the Two Sides

3. "The Chechens from their point of view are absolutely right and logical: they know, they are not hiding this, they are getting what they want, they do not agree with anyone that opposes their interests".

3. "At the Moscow negotiations Yel'tsin agreed to prepare a Russo-Chechen treaty. References to a "Tatarstan Model" can deceive anyone, but not the Chechens.

He (Yel'tsin) speaks about Chechnya as a possible allied state. Yel'tsin says that in the course of the talks, the strategic interests of Russia and Chechnya lie in the spheres of economics and defence. These are again formulations from the spheres of international relations, but by no means from the lexicon of a federal president speaking with the head of a subject of his federation".

The Editorial concludes: "Therefore the time has come to stop composing treaties under a "Chechen Shaymiyev": Maskhadov is not Shaymiyev, Chechnya is not Tataria, the Caucasus are not the Volga region, but begin to carry out an absolutely honest (in the sense of acknowledging the realities), absolutely firm and cynical policy in the interests of preserving the remaining territories of Russia in the Caucasus, its influence there, and furthermore of an economic and geopolitical dominance of Russia in this region . . . To stretch the elastic until the year 2001 does not work. It is obvious that even before the year 2001 the whole of the Caucasus may be lost" .

Fourth Round of Russo-Chechen Consultations (28 September 1997)

The fourth round of joint Russo-Chechen consultations on preparing an all-embracing bilateral treaty including the other agreements concerning economics and defence finished without any concrete results on 28 September 1997, if one considers that the changes of opinion and statements reflecting the positions of the two sides are not regarded as some sort of result. It was hard to expect any other outcome from the meeting, and it is equally impossible to foretell future developments.

However, one conclusion from an analysis of the situation is clearly evident: no serious breakthrough in the political settlement of relations between Moscow and Groznyy is going to occur in the near future through these joint consultation meetings. The participants in the negotiations have occupied totally incompatible positions, and at least in their statements both delegations have made no attempts to search for a compromise. Uncertainty on the question of the status of Chechnya remains. Acquiring a character of monotony and establishing a sensation of hopelessness, the present Russo-Chechen relations are leading to a downgrading in the significance of the Kremlin's one-time decisive steps toward the process of normalisation and settlement. Numerous extreme political forces both in Moscow and Groznyy require their respective leaders to take cardinal decisions, forgetting that in the process initiated by the Khasavyurt Accords of 30/31 August 1996, the most radical measures have already been taken: "the war has stopped, federal troops have withdrawn from Chechnya, a peace treaty has been signed".

To expect from recent enemies a complete settlement at the present time is unrealistic. But the complicated situation throughout the whole of the North Caucasus region, the latest political decisions of both Moscow and Groznyy, the rigid statements of the sides in addressing each other compel the participants in the process of normalisation to a forced appearance of progress in determining the status of Chechnya. The Kremlin, with all its striving to appear dispassionate and unhurried in attempting to solve this question, has failed to understand that sterile procrastination brings with it the threat of a increasingly deterioriating situation attended only by the shadows of dark and sombre uncertainty and perhaps even of impending chaos in the North Caucasus. These thoughts and ruminations, of course, are not only being printed in the Russian press, but the separation of Chechnya from Russia, including the different variants of constitutional procedure for holding an all-Russia referendum on the question of Chechen independence are seriously being discussed at high political levels in the Kremlin.

An extreme view, on the other hand, is the statement concerning the inevitability of keeping the republic in the RF. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov believes that Chechnya must remain in the structure and composition of the Russian Federation, but Moscow nevertheless has no intention of being dependent on the caprices of Groznyy. In his opinion "to have Chechnya in its structure is humiliating and insulting", but if Chechnya leaves the structure of the Russian Federation then Nemtsov is convinced that it will return to being an uncontrollable centre of crime: "If the independence of the republic is announced then it is necessary to enclose it by barbed wire, to establish borders, customs and furthermore to expect provocations". But from a more rational Russian viewpoint, even in the event of a decision by Moscow to grant independence to Chechnya, it would not be able to take place easily and quickly; one constitutional act alone would not be sufficient. In this instance, the sovereignty of Chechnya will be achieved by the good offices of Russia, in as much as a state has responsibility before the world community even for its own former territory: "Besides, it is the granting to Chechnya of independence by Moscow which makes the republic a state and not the establishment of diplomatic relations by Groznyy with any foreign country" .

This impasse has forced the Chechens to state that Groznyy is not intending to wait endlessly for Moscow to grant independence. The Chechen leadership is concerned that the longer this process is subject to further procrastination then the greater the possibilities will be for extremist forces on both sides to start another war, for disaffected parties to perpetrate serious criminal acts and stimulate the breakdown of law and order and widespread instability throughout the North Caucasus. So with the aim of achieving a solution more quickly, the Chechens are striving to raise the negotiations to the presidential level, but of course, even the Russian President is still a prisoner of the past, a hostage to elements among the power wielding structures and the State Duma.

Brief Comparison of Treaty and Draft Treaty Documents

Wide Differences

One cannot but note the wide divergence of approach in the drafts prepared by Ivan Rybkin, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and by Movladi Udugov, First-Deputy Prime Minister of the Chechen government, whose main responsibilities are the negotiations with the Russian Federation on the future status of Chechnya. The fact of the matter is that, not only are there wide differences in title and preamble, but also in substance. The specific firmness of formulation in the Udugov draft is in distinct contrast with the anodyne abstraction and vagueness of the Rybkin draft.

Whilst it will be remembered that Ivan Rybkin, using a literary turn of phrase, cautioned that it was not possible to solve all the Chechen problems "by a single wave of the sword" including the problems of the inter-relationship between Moscow and Groznyy, he believed that it would lead to a gradual untying of the "knots and wrinkles" . However the Editor in Chief of Nezavisimaya Gazeta was scathing concerning the lack of progress on the "long approach march" to the problem: "Evidently, the main negotiators from the Russian side and those who stand behind them, do not realise that the time for reservations and direct omissions are long past. The real progress for Russia in the negotiations about the future relations with Chechnya consist and depend on the very existence of Russia as a federal state, not in the demonstration of diplomatic refinements" .

Russo-Chechen Draft Treaty (Annex A)

Taking the Russo-Chechen Draft Treaty "concerning the mutual delegation of authority", it will be seen that the preamble is long and flowery. Article 1 does not get to grips with the problem " . . . The Chechen Republic independently establishes on its own territory full and complete state power with the exception of the powers given over to the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. . ." (Emphasis added) It makes no mention of "sovereignty". It is almost as if the Russian view point still remains on the lines of: "Yes, we have tried to understand what the Chechen side understands. How do they see the problem?" and the belief that the "word independence which the Chechen leaders keep proclaiming and secession from Russia are entirely different things" .

Another indication of Russian wishful thinking or even naivety emerged during the Fourth Session of the Russo-Chechen Joint Commission, when Ivan Rybkin proposed that a referendum be carried out in Chechnya under the control of international observers on the question of relations with Russia for: "He believed that the absolute majority of people in Chechnya - 80% of the population would wish to live together with Russia. . . If this was not simply thinking out loud, then the realisation of such plans could all the more speedily give the opposite result, ie not less than 80% of the Chechen population would press for state independence" . Separatists' overwhelming victory at the January elections in Chechnya tends to give credence to the fact that 80% would opt for independence from Russia at the moment.

This Russian Draft Treaty approximates to and closely mirrors the concepts contained in the Articles of the Russian Federation-Tatarstan Treaty of 15 February 1994 (Annex H) which was concerned with "the demarcation of areas of responsibility and mutual delegation of powers". Whilst the Russian Draft Treaty does not appear to go far enough to satisfy current' Chechen demands, it is worth noting the present beneficial situation in Tatarstan, achieved some four years after the Russo-Tatarstan Treaty was signed. As a result of the Russo-Chechen conflict the eventual package placed on the table for Chechnya by Russia may well be wider in scope than the one given to Tatarstan in 1994, even so, President Mintimer Shaimiyev of Tatarstan is in no doubt about the benefits for Tatarstan the Russo-Tatarstan Treaty of February 1994.

The Checheno-Russian Draft Treaty (Annex B)

The Checheno-Russian Draft Treaty "concerning friendliness and collaboration" has a succinct preamble and wastes no time before proceeding to Article 1 in which "The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian Federation (later the High Contracting Parties) together recognise the sovereign, independent states, subjects of International Law . . ." It is only when turning to the "Bashlam" Draft Treaty that a possible way out of this impasse becomes apparent.

The "Bashlam" Draft Treaty (Annex G)

The Draft Treaty "concerning the fundamentals of mutual relations" in many ways has the potential to provide a face-saving modus vivendi, certainly for the Russians at the moment, in which the positions and aspirations of both sides are fairly reflected in equal measure together with some inevitable ingredients of compromise, as shown in Article 1 of the Draft Treaty.

It would be more than a little simplistic to think that, perhaps, the inclusion of a statement which recognises "Chechen sovereignty and Chechnya being a subject of International Law" in the Russo-Chechen Draft Treaty in Article 1 together with some form of words which implies that in return Chechnya "has handed over voluntarily part of its sovereign rights to be under the authority of the Russian Federation" might in practice provide a solution. The "Bashlam" proposals have, however, been well-researched, well written and are comprehensive in scope. In many ways its depth, detail and comprehesiveness surpass both the Russian and Chechen draft treaty versions and furthermore provide a suitable form of words.

Summary of Present Stage in Negotiating Process

Whilst at the level of the joint consultations between Russian and Chechen representatives there may appear to be an insuperable deadlock following the fourth round of talks, on the positive side it is necessary to remember that these are still early days in the search for an acceptable settlement. It is also important to acknowledge that a considerable distance has already been covered between the two parties remembering that: "The war has stopped, federal troops have withdrawn from Chechnya, a peace treaty has been signed", furthermore, both sides have agreed "to refuse for ever the use or the threat of the use of force in solving any issues of dispute" and "to build their relations in accordance with universally recognised principles and norms of International Law". These are the tangible results of the process started by the initiative, forcefulness and understanding of the complexities of the Chechen conflict by General Alexandr Lebed working in close concert with Aslan Maskhadov, aided by the good offices of the OSCE representative in Groznyy, Tim Guldiman, in signing the Khasavyurt Accords at the end of August 1996. The momentum of the Accords brought about the Chechen general election in early 1997 establishing democracy once again in Chechnya and eventually led to the signing of the Russo-Chechen figleaf' Treaty of 12 May 1997.

Future Hopes

Prospect of Third Meeting between Maskhadov and Yel'tsin

A third meeting between President Yel'tsin and President Maskhadov is planned for early 1998, even though the exact date of President Yel'tsin's visit to Groznyy has not yet been released. "The exact date of his trip is known to the President of the RF, but he has no intention of speaking about it". The Head of State of the Russian Federation during the course of his visit to "mutinous" Ichkeria has the intention of studying, working on and developing arangements for financing and restoring the economy of the republic, "but it is absolutely clear that the political aims of Boris Yel'tsin include, in his own words, the necessity of supporting Aslan Maskhadov in order that gradually their ideas of departing from Russia disappear or are relegated to the background' ". Another small insight which is indicative of the importance and urgency felt by the Russian President for this visit, is the fact that "Ministers and other goverment department heads, literally prompted by the Russian leadership, are visiting Ichkeria, where the Groznyy authorities are already waiting for them", as exemplified by the arrival of the plenipotentiary representatives of the head of state and the Russian government Valentin Vlasov and Georgy Kurin who are occupied in preparations for the visit of the Russian President. Although officially the declared theme of their visit was negotiation with Aslan Maskhadov and Vakha Arsanov on questions relating to the restoration of the Chechen economy and work on Groznyy airport to transform it into an international airport, it is clear that preparations for the visit of Boris Yel'tsin are proceeding at full speed.

>From the Chechen side, President Yel'tsin's proposed visit is regarded, in the words of President Aslan Maskhadov's press-secretary Kazbek Khadzhiyev, as a positive step enabling and facilitating the agreement of a settlement by means of signing a full wide-ranging and comprehensive inter-state treaty which will envisage the future establishment of diplomatic relations.

What ever the tasks facing both the sides when they meet to discuss the question of Chechen status and settlement, it is difficult to evaluate the significance of Boris Yel'tsin's journey to Chechnya. For him it is a means of demonstrating that he acknowledges the importance of the North Caucasus and understands the acute problems there. Furthermore it could be seen as the start of an attempt to overcome the damage caused by previous neglect, and the lack of firm and consistent policy from the Centre towards the region, illustrated by haphazard decision-making, and contradictory, random action by the federal power wielding structures. For the Chechens who have invited the President, it could actually strengthen their position. Whilst no one in Groznyy has talked about or elaborated on a split in the leadership of the republic, disagreement in the political circles of Ichkeria is difficult to conceal. The Chechen leadership is able to demonstrate openly that not only have they drawn attention to the plight of their nation, but they have also gained perhaps even an ally at the highest political level, with a visit by the Russian Head of State himself, as opposed to even a senior ranking apparatchik from the Centre. This fact will not go unnoticed in a small state accustomed to Russian lack of interest and will carry great weight in Chechen society, although there are those with different views.

The evident boldness of Boris Yel'tsin's decision too, cannot go unremarked, particularly in entrusting his own personal safety and protection to the Chechen special services, in what can hardly be described as a routine visit to a peaceful and calm region. The planned journey to Groznyy will be in direct contrast to his visit as head of state in May 1996, when the President met members of the federal forces and some Chechen veterans, whilst Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev the former interim Chechen leader remained in Moscow in the capacity of a hostage.

Need for Presidential Resuscitation in Negotiation Process

So with the negotiating process stalled at the joint Russo-Chechen consultative level, it is of vital importance that the Yel'tsin-Maskhadov meeting takes place because this is possibly the only means by which the negotiating progress can be reinvigorated. Moreover, an event such as the death or serious indisposition of the Russian President could produce a plethora of uncertainties, miscalculations and contradictory actions by the various power-wielding factions in the Centre, following their own perceptions, independent policies and recipes for the normalisation' of Chechnya in the search for peace and calm throughout the North Caucasus. It would also strain and possibly shatter the delicate balances within the Chechen political leadership.

The visit may be cancelled due to other reasons, such as an insistence by the Chechens on preconditions or a further deterioration of the internal situation in Chechnya, or Shamil' Basayev being invited to form a new Chechen government and the possibility of his meeting the Russian President. This could cause Presidential advisers in the Kremlin not only to feel uneasy about the Russian President's safety but also concerning the wisdom of the Russian President meeting a murderer with the adverse publicity which would follow from such a meeting. A meeting between both Presidents is vital if progress is going to be made. Cancellation of President Yel'tsin's visit to Groznyy would require an urgent consideration of other venues in the North Caucasus or alternatively the requirement for "a meeting with the Chechen delegation in Moscow without preconditions or ultimatums with a full guarantee of the Chechen delegation's safety" . It is doubtful whether a visit by Victor Chernomyrdin, the Russian Premier would carry sufficient weight, particularly when much of what was signed at the earlier meeting between himself and President Maskhadov in June 1997 has still to be implemented by the Russian side.

Both President Yel'tsin and President Maskhadov have acknowledged their responsibilities and have recognised the fact that only they, and they alone can bring about normalisation and a settlement of the questions concerning the future status of Chechnya and the relationship between Moscow and Groznyy, between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. In an interview with Igor' Rotar', Movladi Udugov even went so far as to speculate whether President Yel'tsin:

"can remember the courageous step of General de Gaulle who went to Algeria and left it an independent sovereign state. That situation for France and Algeria then was considerably more complicated than for Russia and Chechnya" .



There are other factors which are not entirely within the confines of Chechnya's status vis . vis the Russian Federation, but which have some direct pertinence to the future Russo-Chechen relationship or which might have some indirect influence or leverage on the decision making by the two sides within the present uneasy, undefined and untidy relationship.

Box 6 - Other Factors Pertinent to the Russo-Chechen Relationship

1. Blockade and Subsequent Isolation. Russian activity around Chechen border giving rise to Chechen perceptions of Russian intentions to tighten de facto blockade.

2. Restoration of Chechnya. Lack of effective implementation of Russian financial support for restoration, reparation, compensation, easing plight of refugees, payment of pensions and work on other subsidiary agreements.

3. Chechen Search for External Support. Chechen moves to establish external contacts with Georgia, Azerbaijan, establishment of Caucasus Common Market, Turkey, USA and United Kingdom.

4. Declaration of Islamic Republic of Chechnya. Implementation of Sharia Law and death penalty, execution by firing squad and contact with pariah' states.

5. Possibility of Disunity in Chechen Government. Speculation over: weakening of President Aslan Maskhadov's position internally in Chechnya, continued influence of teips versus professionalism, lawlessness and uncontrollability of Chechen field commanders.

Prudent Russian Precaution or Precursor of Tightening Blockade?

Chechen Concerns over Blockade and Subsequent Isolation

In contrast to the outward, recently perceived, positive attitude of the Russian President toward Chechnya, it would appear that some factions within the Kremlin are taking measures which could well be described as ones of prudent precaution, or could at the same time signify something more sinister, such as the imposition of an unleakable' blockade to starve Chechnya into a line which conforms to being a subject of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. However, the Chechen leaders have already warned about the dangerous consequences of such a policy, as exemplified by Aslan Maskhadov's statement whilst on a short break in Turkey during November, "If Russia with the help of intrigue attempts to prevent our independence, we are ready once again to

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