War of words takes Russia and Chechnya back to brink
Wednesday 16 August 1995
Russia and the breakaway republic of Chechnya yesterday played a dangerous game of dare, which appeared to take the two sides to the brink of war once more. The prospect of a renewed flare-up in the fighting now seems more real than it has been for months.
President Boris Yeltsin threatened force against the Chechens if they did not fully disarm. Failure to meet the Russians' terms could bring "special, emergency energetic measures - including military". The Chechen leadership seems disinclined to do the Russians' bidding, however: a Monday deadline has already been ignored.
Some observers believed that the Russians had gained victory, following their destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny, at the beginning of this year. A partial peace deal was agreed last month. But the forcible occupation of Chechnya, and the increased bitterness among the Chechen population, may merely have delayed further explosions. Chechnya's "peace" is in any case unstable, with several people being killed almost every day.
The Kremlin appears convinced that the Chechen population will eventually buckle under if enough force is used. The Russian leadership has put concerted public pressure on the Chechens' separatist leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev, in recent days, with the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the presidential spokesman, Sergei Medvedev, adding their voices to that of Mr Yeltsin. Mr Medvedev insisted there was no ultimatum, but noted that Russia "has taken rather a tough stance, believing the disarmament of Dudayev's formations is of prime importance". Mr Medvedev warned: "If Dudayev's supporters are not ready to indicate illegal armed formations and their location, the Russians might do it themselves."
Further bullish noises came from the chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, Viktor Ilyukhin, who called for a state of emergency in Chechnya. "In my opinion, unless the state of emergency is introduced, it is impossible to disentangle the Chechen knot. It is not ruled out that Dudayev's formations will again have to be disarmed by force."
Whether these threats are all part of a warm-up for a renewal of the bloody war, or whether the Russians are merely sabre-rattling, is difficult to tell. Pravda yesterday described the situation as "neither peace nor war", and worried that Russia may, in effect, have capitulated to "a gang of Dudayev's cut-throats".
The liberal Sevodnya argued: "The president and government are not joking. Everybody remembers the 48-hour ultimatum that ended with the troops going into Chechnya. Despite the fact that more than six months have gone by, the condition of the ultimatum - the disarming of illegal formations - is the same as it was then."
Despite tough Russian talk and Chechen defiance, neither side would stand to gain from a renewal of the war. Anatoly Romanov, the Russian military commander in Chechnya, complained yesterday that neither he nor his Chechen opposite number, Aslan Maskhedov, wanted to go "deep into a labyrinth of negotiations". They were only forced to do so, he said, because political negotiators had failed to clear up ambiguities. Mr Maskhedov said that the Chechens were ready to disarm in some areas.
Part of the argument is over whether Chechen militia units are allowed to keep law and order - and if so, where. Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, the Chechens' senior negotiator, told Tass news agency that it was impossible for the Chechen side to give a clear response to the Moscow ultimatum, because "we know about the ultimatum only from the media - no official document has been sent to us".
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Bali Nine executions live: Indonesian firing squad shoots dead eight drug offenders despite outcry around world, but a ninth is spared
Keith Harris dead: Orville the Duck ventriloquist dies aged 67 following battle with cancer
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...
£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...