Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Russia sets agenda for talks with rebels

MOSCOW, Oct. 27 (UPI) Russian authorities outlined Saturday the agenda for upcoming talks between the Chechen rebels' envoy and President Vladimir Putin's representative in southern Russia.

The agenda will be strictly limited, Valentin Sobolev, the deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council told RIA Novosti news agency.

Sobolev said there "can be no discussion over Chechnya's status as part of Russia."

Akhmed Zakayev, the emissary of the Chechen rebels telephoned Putin's envoy Viktor Kazanstev Wednesday to propose a meeting in Moscow within the next 10 days.

Zakayev reacted to Putin's address to the rebels in late September when the Russian leader called on the Chechen guerrillas to surrender their arms and contact federal authorities in order to negotiate terms of their surrender.

Putin then promised that rebels who had not been involved in violent crimes would be granted freedom to reintegrate into Chechnya's civil life.

Political observers regard Zakayev's request as a possible turning point in resolving the conflict in the breakaway province where Russian troops control most of the territory. But both civilians and the military are targeted on a daily basis by the remaining rebel forces.

Over the last seven years, Moscow has launched two military campaigns to stifle separatism in Chechnya and crack down on terrorists.

Russia's liberals urged Putin to start the talks in order to put an end to fighting and prevent more casualties.

However, Putin insists there can be no negotiations with Chechnya's self-styled President Aslan Maskhadov and other guerrilla leaders "whose hands have been stained by the blood of the Russian people."

Sobolev ruled out Saturday that talks could be held outside Russia as the rebels have requested in a bid to gain support for alleged human rights abuses reportedly committed by the Russian military.

Sobolev also excluded the possibility of any third parties playing the role of mediators, apparently reacting to some of the proposals that were put forward recently by several ex-Soviet leaders.

"The Chechen problem is an internal conflict of Russia that we will resolve on our own," said Sobolev.

"Therefore, the attempts of the other side to involve in the talks any foreign state are deprived of any logic."

As the standoff between the rebels and Russia's federal troops mounted in recent weeks, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze proposed to mediate, but said he would do it only if the Kremlin backed his initiative, too.

Sobolev also noted that the talks would be held "within tight deadlines" and would not "drag on half a year."

"The impulse has been given and we are not slowing it down any more," said Sobolev.

Sobolev spoke in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don where he and other Security Council officials had arrived for consultations with Kazantsev's team.

Meanwhile Saturday, the chief of Russia's federal troops in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi told reporters that the rebels' command had ordered guerrillas to infiltrate towns and cities acting as peaceful civilians.

According to Moltenskoi, the rebels should acquire identity cards and legalize their stay.

Many of them try to find employment in Chechnya's police and security agencies, added Moltenskoi.

The army chief noted that some of the rebels were also trying to leave Chechnya.

"We are reacting in an operative manner to the rebels' attempts to destabilize the situation and that enables us to deal them rather serious blows," Moltenskoi said.

Back to the Top    Next Article