War of words takes Russia and Chechnya back to the brink

STEVE CRAWSHAW

Moscow

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 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. Otherwise it would be "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 part of a warm-up for a renewal of the 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 "into a labyrinth of negotiations". They were only forced to do so, he said, because political negotiators had failed to clear up ambiguities.

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".

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice