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21 April 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Chechen leader orders cease-fire- report.
2. Itar-Tass: Total of 1,864 Servicemen Died in Chechnya-Manilov.
3. The Economist (UK): A new foreign policy?
4. Itar-Tass: 1998 Crisis Positively Influences RUSSIA'S Economy -
5. PRESS CONFERENCE WITH STATE DUMA DEPUTY SERGEI KOVALYOV.
(Discusses relations with West, Chechnya, Putin, etc.)]
Chechen leader orders cease-fire- report
April 20, 2000
By Patrick Lannin
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Chechen rebels have been ordered to halt attacks on
Russian forces, separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov has told Moscow newspaper.
In an interview to appear Friday in Kommersant, Maskhadov insisted he was in
control of the rebel forces and said he had also ordered the release of
Russian prisoners as part of a peace plan he had proposed to Moscow.
Russian officials questioned the idea that Maskhadov is in command of rebels
fighting Moscow for the past six months or can be an authoritative partner
The Russian military said Friday it had sent reinforcements to the south of
Chechnya to swoop on rebels holding out in high mountain bases although the
numbers of men in the region had been cut by around 20,000 from their peak of
``The relative calm which has broken out on the frontline came about because
I gave the order unilaterally to suspend military action,'' Maskhadov told
the newspaper. ``This was part of a plan for a peaceful settlement, proposed
by me to Moscow.
``Apart from that, I agreed without preliminary conditions to free all
captive Russian servicemen. All Chechen commanders have been given the order
to take measures to find and free hostages.
``Practically all the Chechen armed units have centralized control and, of
course, obey me as the commander-in-chief,'' he said. He added that some
militia units might exist that he did not command but that these did not play
a big role.
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman, who is Russia's main civilian envoy in
Chechnya, earlier told Interfax news agency that proposals by Maskhadov were
simply a trick to win time for the rebels to regroup and attack again.
Russia has said it would only hold peace talks with Maskhadov if he ended his
resistance and turned over other rebel commanders. But it has also said it
does not believe Maskhadov commands authority among the fighters.
Maskhadov talked of fellow rebel commanders Shamil Basayev and the Arab-born
Khattab in the interview when he called their August 1999 attacks on
Dagestan, to the east of Chechnya, as a provocation against the Chechen
Maskhadov has sought in interviews to distance himself from the two men,
although Russia has tended to put them all in the same category: rebels who
need to be crushed. Before the latest war, Mashadov seemed to have little
control over them.
When asked again in a later question about the two field commanders, he said
that anyone who did not respect any deal he made with Moscow would be
declared an outlaw.
The attacks on Dagestan helped push Moscow to launch a new attack on Chechnya
just three years after the end of the first Chechen war, from 1994-96, which
ended in a Russian defeat.
Interfax news agency quoted the military in Chechnya as saying an additional
500 troops had been dispatched to the southern Vedeno district to join at
least 1,500 servicemen already combing the mountains for about 1,000
Colonel-General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of armed forces' general
staff, told a news conference that Moscow was changing tactics in Chechnya
and switching from large-scale assaults to special operations to capture
Interfax quoted him saying Russia had scaled down its military presence in
the region from around 100,000 servicemen at the height of the conflict in
January to about 80,000.
``This number is enough to carry out our tasks,'' said Manilov, adding that
despite a significant decrease in fighting, the Defense Ministry was not
going to hand over overall command in Chechnya to the Interior Ministry for
the time being.
Total of 1,864 Servicemen Died in Chechnya-Manilov.
MOSCOW, April 20 (Itar-Tass) - Federal forces have lost a total of 1,864
killed and 5,338 wounded in the military operation in Chechnya, the Russian
army's General Staff First Deputy Chief Valery Manilov said at a news
conference on Thursday.
He said 2,144 military servicemen died and 6,325 were wounded since the start
of fighting in Dagestan as it was invaded by Chechnya's rebels in August and
Manilov said 25 servicemen were killed and 72 wounded over the past week.
The figures are losses of troops of defense and interior ministries. An
estimated 1,000 rebels concentrate these days in Chechnya's southeastern
Nozhai-Yurt and Vedeno districts, Manilov said.
He said rebel groups are led in southeastern Chechnya by warlords Shamil
Basayev and Khattab.
Manilov said separate rebel groups had camped in rugged mountain terrain
along Chechnya's border with Dagestan.
Militants "are awaiting the meltdown of snow from passes and hope for help
from abroad", he said.
He said rebels had been seen to be amassing near the border with Georgia.
"In the area of the town of Shatili, a fairly large number of refugees from
Chechnya are staying, of whom 500-600 are militants," Manilov said.
He said "most of tasks of the military part of the counter-terrorist
operation in Chechnya have been fulfilled".
Federal forces are in position to take their action to southern Chechnya and
give more help to Chechnya's rebuilding, he said.
Manilov said the "tactic of militants is to avoid fire contact with federal
forces at any cost".
Rebels use a "method of stings - to sting and bolt away", Manilov said.
As for prospects of negotiations with rebels, he said "there will be no talks
with bandits; there can be only one talk with them, of complete and
unconditional surrender and surrender to the mercy of Russian law", Manilov
The Economist (UK)
April 22-28, 2000
[for personal use only]
A new foreign policy?
M O S C O W
FROM stubborn, and sometimes counter-productive, assertiveness to smart
assertiveness: that might be the best way of describing the foreign-policy
style that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president-elect, has already begun
cultivating. After kicking off with some pointed reminders that Russia’s
arsenal has not rusted away, including a sleepover on a nuclear-armed
submarine in Russia’s Arctic, Mr Putin has just sent the world a fresh set of
signals with whistle-stop visits to two Slavic neighbours, Belarus and
Ukraine, and a detour to Britain sandwiched in the middle.
Whether he was in the brutishly authoritarian, and noisily Russophile,
environment of Minsk, the Belarussian capital, or the geopolitically
ambiguous atmosphere of Kiev, in Ukraine, the message to fellow Slavs was the
same. Russia will use its energy resources and economic weight (remember,
everything is relative) to regain influence over its ex-Soviet neighbours.
That does not mean that for sentimental or strategic reasons Russia will send
anyone a blank cheque, as Belarus would like, or write off Ukraine’s gas bill
of at least $1.4 billion. But, over the past decade, Russia often seemed so
cross with its independence-minded neighbours that it would deny itself
economic advantage in order to punish them. Such tactics may now give way to
a rather more sophisticated approach.
In Britain, meanwhile, Mr Putin startled his hosts with an impassioned
oration in defence of Russia’s ruthless crackdown in Chechnya—and a warning
that West Europeans would “pay heavily” if they continued to appease “Islamic
terrorism”. Like many public arguments over the Chechen tragedy, his outburst
served to underline the huge and perhaps widening gap in perception between
Russia and the West over the causes of the Caucasian bloodbath, and the
In Moscow, too, the signals have been hardening. After hinting that it might
try to open talks with Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechens’ president, Russia’s
foreign ministry seems to have ruled out olive branches during this “final
phase” of war.
But at least in diplomatic terms, Mr Putin arrived in London fully
armed—after the long-awaited approval by the Duma, Russia’s lower house of
parliament, of the Start-2 treaty to cut the long-range rocket forces of
America and Russia. Having several times shied away from ratification as a
way of cocking a snook at America, the Duma tied its approval to the
maintenance of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, limiting the erection
of anti-rocket shields.
Mr Putin tantalisingly held out the prospect that Russia would accept some
adjustment to the ABM treaty, allowing America to proceed with plans for a
modest shield designed to keep out a few North Korean or Iranian missiles
without rendering the Russian arsenal useless. “We have drawn a line between
strategic and non-strategic defence,” he said in London, as Tony Blair
offered to mediate between Russia and America over the issue.
By offering the Americans a narrow path to walk down, Mr Putin has dismayed
American hawks who favour the immediate scrapping of the ABM treaty (or
believe it has lapsed already) and the early deployment of an anti-missile
shield with no holds barred. Russia’s bid for the diplomatic high ground will
be taken a step further if, as expected, the Duma now approves the nuclear
test-ban treaty—something America’s Senate has refused to do, despite
strenuous pressure from the White House.
Russia’s international image will receive another small boost from the
acquittal, by a court in Moscow, of a naval officer turned ecological
campaigner, Alexander Nikitin, who had been facing charges of giving away
secrets. In cold-war times, when judges took their orders from on high, the
release would have been regarded as a sweetener by the Kremlin.The same
interpretation probably holds good today—which suggests that Mr Putin wants
to give the West something to smile about and, in traditional style, has
scant respect for the independence of judges when it comes to imposing
1998 Crisis Positively Influences RUSSIA'S Economy -Chubais. .
LONDON, April 20 (Itar-Tass) - Anatoly Chubais, board chairman of the United
Energy System of Russia, said the 1998 crisis had exerted a positive
influence on Russia's economy, which succeeded in overcoming difficulties for
a short time.
Speaking at a conference, "Russia-2000: New Reality -- New Possibilities",
currently under way in London, Chubais said the priority task of the Russian
government is to continue reforms.
The reform should embrace tax and judicial systems, land privatisation and
prices on communal utilities and housing, Chubais said.
He called for decreasing the state role in the economic regulation. It is
necessary to limit the authorities's interference into relations between
producers, sellers and buyers, to cut the number of employees and to grow
salaries to the others, Chubais said.
"Resistance will be very high and the centre should concentrate its efforts
to stop divide Russia between the groups of influence," he added.
TITLE: PRESS CONFERENCE WITH STATE DUMA DEPUTY SERGEI KOVALYOV
(PETROVKA, 26/2, 14:10, APRIL 18, 2000)
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
Moderator: Good day, our guest today is Sergei Adamovich
Kovalyov, a State Duma deputy, a prominent human rights activist.
We will speak today about relations between Russia and the world
community. And my first question to you, Sergei Adamovich, is the
following one: What is your perception of Russia's relations with
the West, what are your forecasts?
Kovalyov: Good. I do think that there is no need for a
statement. It is best to answer questions. For openers I will only
say the following. In our country, mostly in Moscow, in big cities
we have a continuing discussion. Most diverse points of view are
being presented. But if we are to roughly divide them, they form
two big groups, two classes.
Some people very vigorously and categorically state that
Russia must have and will have its own road of development with all
the ensuing consequences. This takes us to such claims that Russia
defies understanding, that there is no common yardstick for Russia.
The other trend is much less aggressive but quite stubborn
nonetheless. In the past these people would have been described as
pro-Westerners. The discussion between Slavophiles and
pro-Westerners began one or two centuries ago. This is a constant
I must say that the arguments used in this debate are
threadbare ones. What we did not have in the past was
aggressiveness and hostility in mutual relations. Now these are two
I would like to define my position at once. I am a convinced
pro-Westerner. I will now explain this. It means the following. No
specific national paths of development exist in the world. In other
words, there are national specificities in Russia, Belgium,
Luxembourg, China and all other countries.
But everything boils down to the fact that there is only one
species -- homo sapiens. We are a single biological species, we are
single social phenomenon. And humanity depends on much more general
laws of development than it follows from ethnic belonging.
This is a fundamental part of my perception of the world. You
mentioned the problem of Russia and the world community. Attempts
to set ourselves against the world community have a long history.
In the 19th century Russian confrontation with the rest of the
world was largely only on the level of the Black Hundreds. On a
higher cultural level the attitude could be described as
pan-Slavism. This is a broader category.
But now in the person of our new Russian ideologues we are
dropping lower and lower to the Black Hundreds level. This is a
very dangerous anachronism. Meantime humanity is no longer dreaming
of becoming a single humanity, it has already become such. The
world has become smaller, more interdependent and intertwined.
Therefore, no local solutions exist for diverse acute and difficult
problems. All important problems are becoming or have already
become global ones.
This means that we must seek partnership and general rules of
the game. We have become a single mankind but permit ourselves to
live according to totally different sets of rules. As a result,
traditional policy becomes a dangerous anachronism.
This danger is fraught with great bloodletting, perhaps even
with collective suicide. The road leading out of this has long been
outlined. These are universal values and universal concepts,
universal rules of the game, if you like. I will permit myself a
slightly challenging expression -- a new world order.
This is becoming the key task of the 21st century. Will we be
able to solve this task? Will we be able to put in place this order
that will be common for all? A just order that does not put any
constraints on our freedoms, including national freedoms. If we
succeed, we will survive. If not, I do not know who will be the
first to start. Perhaps, India or Pakistan, these new members of
the nuclear club, perhaps, they will want to settle their scores in
a hotter way than usual. Or some Saddam Hussein will get such a
possibility. There are always many of those who are capable of such
In its so-called internal problems, but in reality far from
internal problems like that of the Northern Caucasus, Russia sets
itself against the world community and thus engages in a very
dangerous game. And the world community is engaged in a very
dangerous game by refusing to support democratic tendencies in
Russia and to put pressure against a barbaric aggression and
barbaric treatment of law and human life.
We need badly both, support and pressure. I think that is one
of the fundamental problems we will face in the forthcoming
I think I'd better stop here. Let's hear your questions.
Q: I want to ask you about Chechnya. How would you comment on
the creation yesterday of an independent commission to investigate
human rights violations by a former Duma deputy and presidential
candidate, Pamfilova? I understand that it is led by Krasheninnikov
who is the chairman of the Duma Legislation Committee. It also
includes Pamfilova and several other prominent people.
Kovalyov: Was Ella Alexandrovna elected to the Duma?
Q: I said a former Duma member.
Kovalyov: I always welcome the creation of any independent
commission. Only the experience of creating such commissions,
including on Chechnya, which is not little, is sad. Do you remember
If we could be absolutely sure that this is really an
independent commission or at least a commission consisting of
people who do understand what an independent commission is, it
would be fine. But I am afraid that this will be a remake of
By the way, I would like to remind you that, if I am not
mistaken, six members of Govorukhin's commission -- I remember some
of them: Boris Andreyevich Zolotukhin, Viktor Leonidovich Sheinis,
then, I think, Arbatov and somebody else, I don't remember the
names -- refused to sign the conclusion made by Govorukhin's
commission which was far from being independent.
Nevertheless, no special opinion was published and no one paid
this attention. I remember several more commissions created by the
legislative body of Russia. Do you remember this commission that
was supposed to investigate the sad events of the fall of 1993?
This commission ceased to exist quite fast when an unspoken
agreement had been reached to release both GKChP members and those
who ended up in jail after October 1993 events. On the strength of
this amnesty for everybody and everything, they reached an
agreement to stop all investigations, both of August 1991 and of
October 1993. Such a swap.
As for the names you mentioned, I and Pavel Vladimirovich, if
I am not mistaken, Krasheninnikov belong to the Union of Right-Wing
Forces. He is a lawyer and it would seem that it's his job. But I
have some doubts dating back to his work as Justice Minister. It
was at that time when he was the Justice Minister that his Ministry
stop registering some public organizations, namely, human rights
organizations. On what grounds, you would ask me. I will tell you
how ministry officials explained this.
They said, the protection of human rights is the prerogative
of state bodies, and it's none of your business. The maximum of
what you can do is to help state bodies protect the rights of the
individual. This is how they explained their refusal to register
public organizations. This story is still going on.
As regards Ella Alexandrovna, as far as I remember, she has
held all kinds of positions, from Soviet and Komsomol to vigorously
democratic ones. Her latest statements concerned Grigory Yavlinsky
and whether or not he had had a facelift. And she has also spoken
very eloquently and energetically with regard to Poland. Do you
remember this incident when Russian flags were tramped in Poznan?
An act of hooliganism. As a matter of fact, different countries
consider such acts differently.
The US, a country which is not deprived of ethnic feelings and
patriotic sentiments, has even adopted a special legislative
decision to introduce a norm which says that the burning of or an
insult to the national flag should not be considered as an insult
to the US state dignity and should be considered as an expression
One way or another, this form of expressing one's protest is
unpleasant and uncivilized. But Ella Alexandrovna did not condemn
the hooligans. She pursed her lips and said, "what right does this
Poland have to insult our state dignity?" It's very unpleasant:
this Poland, this Chechnya.
If I were an independent expert, I would remember more often
that some Polish officers were executed in Katyn, that this Poland
was forced into obeyance many times and by not quite legal means.
There are a lot of things to remember. One can always find those
episodes in relations between countries that benefit him. But
others would remember Minin and Pozharsky and the resistance to the
Western offensive in which Poland played not the last role.
It is not good to set up independent commissions in which it
is easy to expect such dependent and predictable emotions. Perhaps,
I am giving you too long an answer to your question, but, in short,
I do not have any big hopes.
You know, in the place of the people who set up independent
commissions I would look around and try to understand if we really
have people who are really informed about the Northern Caucasus,
about what happened there, people who have been at least in some
way independent during the events there. But this is something that
our parliament is not going to do.
Q: France Presse. In continuation of the previous question. Is
the problem that this is a purely Russian commission, that it does
not include international observers who would be more independent?
Kovalyov: I think that international observers are always
useful in such matters. This cannot be qualified as interference in
internal affairs for the simple reason that human rights are no
longer the internal affair of any state, this principle is now
unchallenged in the world. Moreover, this principle was very
vigorously proclaimed in September 1991 in no other place than
Moscow, at the OSCE summit on the human dimension.
I remember that very well. I was appointed co-chairman of the
then Soviet delegation. Together with the German delegation we very
vigorously upheld precisely that principle. Human rights are not an
Well, that is why international experts are often employed as
independent experts in world practice. This does not preclude the
creation of national commissions, though an effort must be made to
ensure their independence. But in our country such commissions are
more or less appointed. And when the authorities appoint an
independent commission you realize that it becomes dependent.
This is not the first example of this. During the past war
another Kovalyov, Krasheninnikov's predecessor in the Justice
Ministry, also headed an independent commission. Govorukhin, too,
Q: News agencies reported today Maskhadov's reaction to the
creation of this commission. A very positive reaction. More than
that, he agreed to negotiate with this commission. Would you care
to comment on this?
Kovalyov: I think Maskhadov did a sensible thing. If this
commission and the more so the federal authorities want to
negotiate, they must negotiate only with Maskhadov. In any case,
they should begin with him. This is because Maskhadov is the only
legitimate figure in Chechnya. He is a legitimate figure of that
scale. Let us recall who congratulated Maskhadov upon his election
as president of Chechnya in January 1997. I think it was the
President of Russia. And with whom did Maskhadov sign agreements on
May 12, 1997? By the way, with the President of Russia. Therefore,
we must not look for legitimate representatives of Chechnya because
there are such representatives.
It is another matter if Maskhadov has any real power in
Chechnya. His possibilities really are very small. But Maskhadov
lost whatever authority he had largely because he pursued a
supertask -- to stop the civil war in Chechnya. He paid a clearly
excessive price for the attainment of this aim -- the loss of any
influence on events inside Chechnya.
A substantial contribution to this was made by the federal
center in Moscow and the West in the person of its official
representatives. They simply helped Maskhadov lose his power. How
did they accomplish this? Very simply. None of them, contrary to
agreements, entered any partnership relations with Maskhadov. Even
agreements that would put Maskhadov under pressure from both
Moscow and the West. And there were ample reasons to put pressure.
You will remember the trade in human beings, the treatment of
these people, I mean hostages. Of course, this was done not by the
Chechen administration but by the Chechen bandits, but it was
precisely the Chechen administration that should have been the
first to take measures. But Maskhadov feared to take such measures
because he did not want to provide a pretext for a civil war. Or
take the invasion of Dagestan. Who can justify that?
Well, neither the West, nor Russia established partnership
relations with Maskhadov and lost any possibility of putting
pressure on him. I am afraid that in some instances this was done
deliberately. Well, Moscow's position was dictated by the fact that
it intended at some point in the future to return to pressure of a
different type, to pressure put by tanks. As to the West, it was
simply afraid of irritating Moscow because in all of its contacts
with the West the Chechen side began and ended its statements with
one and the same demand -- recognize our state sovereignty. But it
was impossible to recognize it.
For diverse political reasons and also for the moral reasons
that I mentioned now it was impossible to recognize the sovereignty
of an administration that cannot and does not want, that is afraid
of dealing with its inveterate bandits who demonstrate in city
squares to children, boys and girls, the future of the country how
this administration kills people. Are you following me? It was
because of these difficulties that there were no contacts with
Maskhadov. And that was one of the major reasons why Maskhadov lost
his possibilities in Chechnya.
Q: Sergei Adamovich, when the West condemns Russia for its
treatment of the peaceful population Russia usually justifies its
actions by saying -- and what would you have done in our place,
what is we leave and power will fall into the hands not of
democrats and liberals but Islamic fundamentalists? And the Western
nations, I am not speaking of governments now, understand this to
a certain extent because you cannot deny that there is a grain of
truth in this.
So, what do you think should be done there now, on what terms
can a peace agreement on Chechnya be reached?
Kovalyov: Indeed, this is a difficult question. But let us
begin from the beginning. I do not agree with you, there are no
grounds for such a point of view. To agree with me I suggest that
you engage in a simple mental experiment. Imagine that you are in
the basement of a house in a populated locality that is being
subjected to artillery, missile fire and bomb attacks.
Are you ready to pay with your life or, still worse, with the
lives of your wife and sister for the capture or slaying of
terrorists, bandits and so on? If yes, then let us continue our
discussion. You know, I saw people who were running around
Budyonnovsk and screaming: "My wife is in the hands of Basayev in
the hospital. Let her perish if only Basayev is killed".
It turned out later that these dregs did not have any wife
there. They had been hired to run around and yell and to whip up
I cannot imagine a serviceman, a lieutenant-general or a
lieutenant, who would not know with absolute confident what would
happen to a settlement if a strike is delivered on it with special
weapons. With specially designed weapons, I emphasize. Designed not
for hitting pinpoint targets but for hitting areas of seven
hectares or 30 hectares or even more. These people, both
lieutenants and lieutenant-generals, know very well whose corpses
will lie under the ruins of the houses.
Our colonel-president knows this too. And they do not fear to
pay this price. When they agree to pay such a price for achieving
their goals, then the same thing happens. There is no police
operation in Chechnya. This is a lie. An intentional lie. What is
happening there is the armed destruction of a considerable part of
Yes, sometimes one wants to kill, for example, Basayev or
Khattab. I know of such attempts very well, I know of them from
documents. Even before Grozny was razed to the ground, a missile
strike had been delivered on Basayev's house and even four rebels
had been killed in the house, but three more blocks were
annihilated. There were multi-storey and one-storey buildings
So, we are ready to attain our political goals at the price of
lives, but of the lives of other people, not our own. I am strongly
against this principle. Yes, Basayev and Khattab must be punished,
at least they deserve a military defeat and a trial. But not at the
price of the lives of other people. If you want to pay with lives,
pay with your own ones.
So, what could be a way out of this situation? It's not easy
and this is why I said your question was very difficult and it is
increasingly difficult to find a solution because in the beginning
of the war talks with Maskhadov -- I can assure you that he is a
restrained and balanced person, he wants to build a secular society
in Chechnya, not a Muslim one, a secular and rule-of-law state. He
understands a secular and rule-of-law state not the way we
understand it. And yet this is not a barbaric, medieval, theocratic
and provincial entity.
So, I believe that in the beginning of the war Maskhadov's
authority would have grown immensely had such talks been held. He
would have become a much more influential person in Chechnya. I
think that even now it is not too late to begin such talks. It's a
lie when our official intermediaries between authorities and people
and mass media say that human rights activists stole a victory from
generals in the 1994-1996 war. We did not steal anything from them
because there was nothing to steal, there was no victory. There was
a devastating military defeat. And it happened after the army had
taken Chechnya under control.
You know, taking these several hundred square kilometers under
control is not making the binomial formula. Having such a strong
army with so powerful heavy weapons, it's a shame upon our generals
that they are still struggling over this simple problem.
What follows the establishment of control? They say they have
taken the mountains under control. What's next? The next step is
occupational regime. And what is an occupational regime? It's an
endless, traditional, and customary for Chechnya, guerrilla war. In
other words, it's a vicious circle with a positive feedback.
Soldiers drink vodka and do all kinds of ugly things because they
are in despair, they wait for night raids and they are angry
because of these raids. And these ugly things make the local
population which detests its own ruthless criminals, its own
Barayevs, Gelayevs and the like support guerrillas. We can
understand this. Can you? For example, they break into your house,
take your daughter and strangle her after having raped her or not
having raped her because they thought she was a sniper. Perhaps she
is, but she was not put on trial, she was simply strangled. So,
will you support the guerrillas? I would.
So, this is a vicious circle. It has no end. The guerrilla war
cannot be won in principle. There is only one way to win it and
this way has a terrible name: genocide.
Now, whether or not these talks have a future, I think it
would be correct to put forth tough demands for a legitimate, I
repeat, legitimate Chechen administration rather than some
Gantamirov, a thief released from prison for political reasons and
who is basically an obedient puppet. But these demands should
concern law and order on this territory. As for its status, it is
necessary to conduct equal, very difficult, very long, but equal
talks without preconditions.
I will say a few words about status, if you don't mind. This
was written in the agreements which were signed at the highest
Russian level. It's a lie when some say that these agreements were
signed because Moscow had conceded to such naive public pressure or
maybe even unscrupulous public pressure. Who knows how much were
received from Chechens? Such a version was spread very actively.
These agreements were very balanced and reasonable and at that
time inevitable. What did the Chechen side think of its
Let me give you one example. In the very beginning of the
previous war, in Grozny that was being stormed already, it was
being shelled and tanks were rolling into it -- it was either the
end of December or the beginning of January 1995 -- I talked with
a vice premier in the Dudayev government and asked him, "Do you
really believe that you can maintain state sovereignty in full?"
And he said, "No, of course not. You will hear here that Chechnya
has a century-long experience of statehood. It's not true. It's a
lie, or at best a delusion, a myth. We have never had any
experience of statehood and we need special relations with our
neighbors, primarily Russia".
"And what do you mean by special relations?" I asked him. And
he says, "Here are five points, tick them off on your fingers.
First, a common army. Second, a common border. Third, a common
currency. Fourth, a common and agreed-upon foreign policy. Fifth,
joint management of key industries."
But what about sovereignty, I asked him, what is left of
sovereignty, a wolf on the green flag? And he said, "Yes, just
that. But this is very important."
You see, this was the government of a warring side and it was
ready to announce this position at the talks.
Does Tatarstan have less? Is conducting talks on these
conditions worse than killing 100,000 people? I do not know what
conditions peace could be reached this time. I think the first
condition should be the end to all hostilities without
preconditions as it was done at the end of the previous war.
Don't think that I am an ardent supporter of Chechen
sovereignty. I have been repeatedly accused of this, but no facts
were produced. I am more than skeptical about the right of peoples
to self-determination, to state self-determination. I will not
lecture you now. I only want to say that this very right runs
counter, it does not follow from the rights of the individual but
contradicts them. When you have a multi-ethnic state, you
automatically have first-grade and second-grade citizens
irrespective of the rights of the individual. One group includes
people of the so-called title nation and the other group all
others. And that's it. But this goes against the concept of human
This is a theoretical solution. I could give you other
arguments in its support. But you know that the political situation
and life are too complicated for the most perfect theoretical
approaches. Do you remember how the State of Israel was created
after the war? It was created by the decision of the United Nations
Organization. A new state was created. Now imagine this. In, say,
1946 we asked leading representatives of the Jews and said, "You
are such an intellectually advanced nation, what are you doing by
dividing the world into new small mono-ethnic states instead of
working for the unity of humankind?" What would the Jews have told
us? They would have said, "non-Jews have just killed 6 million Jews
and by working for the unity of humankind we run the risk of
disappearing from the Earth's face. In the new state we will try to
defend ourselves. Now it's the year 1946 and, by the way, the first
post-war Jewish pogroms have just swept Poland, a victim of Nazism.
And will you try to convince us now not to defend ourselves?"
The Chechen history differs from the Jewish one, but still
there are some overlapping points. You are all intelligent people
and you all remember this. Wars of the last century and the century
before that. Then the dawn of Soviet power which was a grim
experience for Chechens. At first they had very warm relations with
the Bolsheviks when all of them - Ingushis, Chechens and Soviet
patriots in general -- were destroying the Cossacks. That followed
by the rebellions of North Caucasus highlanders, endless clashes
and fighting. Then the war and the deportation of 1944 and two
Chechen wars. But enough of that. And many of them say just this,
enough. I cannot deny them understanding. Although I have to say
that when I think of a possible sovereign Chechen state of
Ichkeria, it makes me shiver, the very though of what may happen
there frightens me and to a great extent, this is our fault. We
support the government and authorities who act in the North
Caucasus the way they are acting now.
Q: Have we already reached the August 1996 level when Russia
was ready for talks or is this just empty rhetoric because Igor
Ivanov said today vaguely that we are open to dialogue with
Maskhadov? Is this so?
Kovalyov: I have no doubts that this is just rhetoric. I will
tell you a secret. Sometimes in the State Duma I get red files
containing state secrets. I am supposed to read them, sign and keep
my mouth shut. There is nothing easier than to keep these state
secrets because it's absolute uncertainty. Even if you want to
retell them, you can't. This bird's language cannot be reproduced
by a normal person. Let alone he general spirit of these state
secrets. It's all the same. For example, Foreign Minister Ivanov or
some other important diplomat tells you of his negotiations with
various Western officials. You can be sure that each time he will
write the same things.
There is this opinion that the Parliamentary Assembly behaved
badly, they are hesitating, that they could change their decision
with regard to Russia and we only should help them and not to balk.
This is the approximate tone and meaning. I do not understand why
this is a state secret if it follows from all newspaper
publications and all conversations, for example, with the Russian
delegation to the PACE in Strasbourg.
All this means that our authorities are concerned and are
looking for such a tone that would not irritate the West and at the
same time would show -- they keep on saying that it is necessary to
think of something that would be taken as a constructive approach.
Do you see the point?
As for the 1996 agreements, reached prior to August, they were
not so bad. And even those of the summer of 1995. I myself signed,
on behalf of Chernomyrdin -- well, on instructions from
Chernomyrdin -- the tentative text of the agreement with Basayev in
Budyonnovsk. I remember what is said and all the subsequent
With all the determination and certainty of the tone and the
clarity of the intentions stated, this was nothing but rhetoric
until Khasavyurt, because it was signed -- in the beginning of the
summer of 1996 an agreement was signed, a ceasefire was reached.
And it was observed. But then presidential elections were held and
what followed them? You know what followed them. Our president,
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, who had given guarantees ended up in
hospital with a heart seizure and his representative and
peacemaker, Alexander Ivanovich Lebed, gave the go-ahead to the
escalation of war in direct contact with General Tikhomirov and
told him, "If you can finish them, finish them". And Tikhomirov
replied, "We broke the agreement, but what a big deal!"
You should understand that a ceasefire agreement is never
observed in full by all sides because shootouts occur here and
there. You can always say that Chechens break the ceasefire. And
this is when this escalation began under the motto of finishing the
monster in its nest. When Moscow intellectuals began to ask
peacemaker Lebed questions, do you remember what he said? He said,
"General Tikhomirov is a manageable general who controls the
situation unlike you and me who are here in Moscow. And we should
believe that he is doing the right thing". That's what was
happening at that time.
Peace came not because of these agreements. Peace came because
Chechen rebels seized Grozny and surrounded the dispersed groups of
the Grozny garrison. There was no way to save it. And that's when
Polyakovsky came up with his horrible ultimatum and it was clear
that this ultimatum did not change anything. Polyakovsky could have
only destroyed his own surrounded soldiers and everything that was
still alive in Grozny, what moved there or stuck out in the form of
wall fragments. And nothing else. He would not have destroyed
rebels. They are trained soldiers and they know how to deal with
Then Alexander Ivanovich Lebed cast his experienced glance at
the battlefield and realized that there was nothing else to do but
capitulate, and this is what he did. As it turned out later,
everything that preceded this capitulation was unscrupulous
rhetoric and a brazen lie. And this is what I wrote in my appeal to
Lebed and Yeltsin from the intensive-care unit in July 1996. "You
two," I wrote, "deceived 40 million voters". But this was never
published except in Russkaya Mysl. Now I think Russkaya Mysl will
cease to exist and there will be no one to publish my open letter.
Q: When will Russia be ready? What else has to happen, another
encirclement of Grozny or another big failure?
Kovalyov: I think it would be much better if there were no
another encirclement of Grozny or another big failure. I do not
expect the exact repetition of events that occurred in 1996. I
think this will not happen.
Personally I would rejoice if the Russian authorities amended
their ways under pressure of the Russian public or, at worst, the
world public. But our remarkable public is pushing the federal
authorities in the opposite direction. I think this only worsens
the expected tragic consequences.
Q: BBC. You said that the authorities are worried, are looking
for rhetorics that would not anger the West. Is it that Putin has
found these rhetorics in London?
Kovalyov: Quite possible. In the place of the British Queen I
would not have met with a colonel. Simply because in good society
it is not customary to shake hands with such people. As to the
rest, it is a matter of high politics. I think that it is best to
look for the right tonality proceeding from the impetus and using
the mechanism given by real politicians, by the executive branch,
by the European members of parliament, by the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe.
In a certain sense a miracle happened. Once over such a long
period, in fact, for the first time in history the parliamentary
body of the Council of Europe remembered that it has statutory
documents, that it has the obligation to abide by its own
regulations and statutory commitments. I think it was a sin not to
use this miracle. I understand, of course, that the Ministerial
Committee will not expel Russia from the Council of Europe. It does
not have such an aim and will do correctly by not expelling Russia.
But I think it is foolish not to use such a powerful trump card.
A sort of political game is inevitable now. One set of
diplomats will say: "Try to understand us, there are bandits there
and we must destroy them in the end". Another set of diplomats will
say: "Try to understand us, we are not living in the Soviet Union,
after all, pressure is being put on us, we cannot permit ourselves
such an independence from our public opinion and our own members of
parliament. Let us find a way out of the situation".
Something good could have resulted from this. But the matter
is that Soviet diplomats are more skillful at deception. I do
remember this and I fear this. Generally speaking, a lot in our
dirty, grim, bloody history that is littered with corpses depends
on Western hypocrisy and Western double standards. This is so.
You see, when Russia was joining the Council of Europe this
was obvious, and I constantly and publicly was saying that Europe
is assuming too heavy a burden... I told them, you cannot reject
this burden because the danger is too great and the price is too
high. You must help Russia integrate into Europe, you must remember
that Russia is part of Europe. You must, as Sakharov also said,
give Russia support and put pressure on it. It is equally
interested in the former and in the latter.
Of course, everybody agreed with this at the time and said:
"Yes, of course, after all, it is precisely the purpose of making
Russia a member of the Council of Europe so that we could give it
consultations on matters of law, so that we could criticize it
explaining what is good and what is bad". But nothing of the sort
happened, of course.
Later on, when Russia was already a member of the Council of
Europe and was already fully violating its voluntarily assumed
statutory obligations, including in Chechnya... Well, I spoke at
the time with Mr. Milleman who headed the ad hoc Council of Europe
commission on Chechnya and we had a stormy discussion. Suddenly he
stopped it. He looked closely at me, held a long pause and asked
me: "Do you want Yeltsin to be elected for a second term?" And this
gives you an answer to all the questions about Chechnya.
It is thus that the West behaved. Not only Milleman. Can you
say that Clinton or Kohl behaved differently? Or Britain? Can you
say that the British press differed from the press in other
At that time two persons, Clinton and Kohl, had the
possibility to stop the slaughter not in two years but in two
months. To stop the war. Very simply. There was no need for threats
to bomb Moscow. There was no need for economic sanctions as well.
All that was necessary to state their stand publicly, very
definitely and in no uncertain terms. Instead they chose to attend
the glorious anniversary celebrations in May 1995. But they should
have said, no, excuse us, no anniversaries, no victories can be
celebrated in a country that kills its own people.
And that would have been enough. Instead, we started a mess
that will last for many years. The guerrilla warfare in the
Northern Caucasus will last for many years. You can write this down
and seal it in an envelope.
Q: France Presse. You said that Russia runs the risk of
isolation, that ultranationalistic tendencies, you mentioned the
Black Hundreds, are on the rise.
Kovalyov: These are different things. To find oneself in
isolation or to cultivate ultranationalism.
Q: It seems to me that for you this is interconnected. I want
to ask about Putin. What will be the impact of his election? What
point of view will he support? Will he be for integration in the
world community or for Russia's isolation and search of its own
Kovalyov: You know, this is quite a difficult question. I will
try to give you a brief and crude answer. I think Putin will
support all points of view. He is already doing this. He is
prepared to establish business relationships with anyone. At the
beginning of the present Duma's work he established business
relations with the Communists. Remember? Something that never
happened before came into being -- a parliamentary majority in
Russia. But, of course, this happened not in the way as in normal
parliamentary countries where the parliamentary majority assumes
certain obligations on itself. In our case, there were no
commitments. Everything boiled down to the distribution of
The way Putin enters into business contacts with criminal
elements is characterized by his relations with Gantamirov, and not
only with him, now also with Yakovlev. Generally speaking, Putin
is a creation of a system, a model that was developed in the Soviet
Union, he is a creation of the system of favoritism. This is not
the first instance in history. And very often a puppet turns out to
be so resolute and ambitious as to be able to eat up the
puppeteers. This has happened.
Let us recall Napoleon's relations with the Directoire. They
thought that they had acquired a remarkable sword but the sword
thought differently. I will not be surprised that Vladimir
Vladimirovich will emulate him. A very remarkable person, a very
honest and noble one, Mikhail Mikhailovich Molostvov, has said very
aptly that Vladimir Vladimirovich is on his way from a Stazi to
becoming a Lord. It is very possible that Vladimir Vladimirovich is
capable of pushing aside Boris Abramovich, or Gleb Olegovich, or
Alexander Staliyevich, or anybody else. Why not?
But the only thing he cannot do, and this is the worst thing,
he cannot stop being an embodiment of this abominable Soviet system
of favoritism. He is its creation and its embodiment. He cannot
renounce this system. But this system is directly opposite to the
idea of a state that serves its society, the idea of civic society
as source of government.
You see, he wants the country that he is heading to have the
reliable mechanism of behind-the-scenes intrigues, a mechanism
developed over many decades, instead of a system of appointment to
office by way of elections.
Let us honestly ask ourselves: was Unity elected to the Duma
or appointed to the Duma? I think that it was appointed rather than
elected. Or take Putin. Are you saying that he was elected? I doubt
You see, he will further perfect the system that generated him
and install it everywhere. I vouch for that. How successful will he
be in this? You know, this will depend not only on him but on all
of us as well.
But what, as it often happens lately, we will turn out to be
the first pupils in class? Remember, Shvarts wrote about this?
Well, then such will be our lot. At the same time, I do not think
that Putin will be able or will want to restore GULAG. He will not
do that. That is impossible. Nobody is capable of restoring the old
repressive system. Besides, there is no need for that. You see, the
guard who is here, inside, is much more effective than the one
manning the guard tower. Alas, this inner guard is triumphing.
And what will be the direction of Putin's preferences? He has
outlined them quite clearly. Recently he spoke about the
undesirability of some contacts with some foreigners for a certain
period of time. I do not know how much time I need... Are you
representing France Presse? Probably, I will have to be punished
although you are not a foreigner, judging by your Russian, but you
are still being paid your wages by France Presse.
Perhaps, I should be punished for this contact.
Some time ago he drank a toast to Stalin and before that there
was something concerning Andropov. By the way, he began by making
a remark that many people do not remember any more. Well, when he
was just appointed prime minister and his rating was closer to 2
percent than to 52 percent, he said: "The country is in need of
stabilization. We will put behind bars those who are against
stabilization". A clever man reasons simply but this does not mean
that these are absolutely irrevocable intentions and it is
necessary for all of us to stock on dried bread and medicines that
we will need during imprisonment.
No, nobody will be put behind bars. But they will strengthen
and upgrade that system of intrigues, appointments and constraints,
including constraints on the press. Since you all television
viewers you know this as well as I. Take a look at the Berezovsky
channels. I wouldn't say that the other channels are all that
independent as well.
Moderator: Thank you. Any more questions? There are no more
questions. Sergei Adamovich, thank you very much for coming and I
wish you the best in your work. I also thank the press.
Kovalyov: Thank you for your attention.
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