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".
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Sean Abbott: Messages of support flood in for bowler after death of Phil Hughes
Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh: Voyeur doctor jailed for eight years after using network of hidden cameras to film patients, colleagues and friends on the toilet
Kim Jong-un 'in dire need of allies' within his own government as younger sister appointed to senior role
Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules he used the word ‘pleb’
£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...
£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...