By Grigory Yavlinsky, Chairman
of the Yabloko Association, Obschaya Gazeta,
No. 45, November 11, 1999
Today the problem of Chechnya is the most difficult
one for Russia. This is primarily because here we
are confronted with a lethal threat to hundreds of
thousands of really unfortunate, innocent women, old
people and children, ordinary citizens of the Russian
Federation, Chechnians by birth who simply want to
live and work on their land.
Secondly , because really large groupings of armed
criminals have been formed in Chechnya, which are
aggressive, well armed and most probably receive support
from abroad. Moreover they offer a new "service"
on the international market - a war against anyone,
on order and for money. Chechnya, Tajikistan and Kirgiziya
present real and long-term dangers to Russia.
As the first and second problems occur in the same
time and same place, this represents an extreme difficulty
The events in Daghestan transferred all these processes
into an acute open phase. The Russian army had all
the grounds for its actions and implemented its task.
It approached the boundaries of Northern Terek and
thereby obtained the positions necessary to control
the situation. Above all,. the army really managed
to provide for the first time in the past five years
the requisite conditions for the construction of a
real border-line there and introduce control over
the administrative boundaries of Stavropol Region,
Ingushetia and Daghestan.
Russia's main goal here is to protect the citizens
of the Russian Federation, and as it tackles these
issues, smash the aggressor in Daghestan and obtain
the support of the local population. The army has
provided the politicians with excellent conditions
to achieve a political settlement of the conflict
in Chechnya, including negotiations from a position
According to all the rules, from this moment on the
initiative should be passed on to the country's political
leadership. But it transpired that there were neither
politicians in the Kremlin or Russia's White House.
Army generals waited for a little while and then went
further, threatening that they wouldn't accept any
interference in their desire to "go till the
Obviously the position of such generals has a military
logic. Militarily they are right.
However, politics, is quite another thing. The US
President Truman did not hesitate to dismiss a legendary
army general MacArthur, when the latter proposed a
bombing of China during the war with Korea: "to
ensure our success and create the requisite conditions
for a definitive victory". US generals tried
to persuade their President to bomb Cuba during the
Caribbean crisis for a long time, but were dismissed.
Quite recently General Schwarzkopf was dismissed,
because he insisted on a ground attack on Baghdad
after the "Storm in the Desert". Generals
have always been proposing similar decisions. This
is right. This is their logic. But let me repeat once
again that politics is quite another matter.
I don't doubt here the patriotic motives of the army's
leadership, but the goal termed by the generals "a
definitive victory in Chechnya" is an illusion,
and consequently destructive for the country.
It leads Russia to moral and geopolitical catastrophe,
the final and probably irreparable disaster for Russia
in the 20th century, rather than to a consolidation
of the state and the army.
All the bombings and humiliation of the refugees
increase the number of people, who are taking arms
in their hands to fight us. Surely it is high time
to understand after the war of 1994-1996 that in the
end this makes us confront the problem of homicide
against one of the ethnic groups of the Russian Federation?
Russia will not survive this attempt: it won't be
able to achieve this goal and will consequently sustain
a definitive defeat. We must stop moving in this suicidal
The war and Russia's future is too great for them
to be sublimated to purely military logic, motivated
moreover by recent personal military disgrace and
a desire for revenge. The military leadership cannot
set political tasks and take political decisions.
This has never happened in Russia's history.
But now it looks as if this has been taking place:
this constitutes the worst result of a decade of Yeltsin's
However, this is not a plot, conspiracy or military
coup. It is far worse. This is a direct consequence
of the complete discreditation of the power of the
kleptocrats that surrounded the presidential team;
the result of the army's and society's contempt of
these authorities and the pain suffered by the people
owing to the situation in the country.
When the military talk about betrayal in the upper
echelons of power and assert that the army is being
robbed in a literal and figurative sense, they are
Certainly, in Russia this refers not only to the
military, but to virtually everybody in the country.
However, the soldiers and army officers first pay
with their lives for this.
The liberation of Beslan Gantamirov from prison and
the formation of some "new Chechenian authority"
that he heads clearly demonstrates that the Russian
government has no reasonable plan over how to act
in Chechnya. It simply has no plan. Now it is clear
why the government is obscure in its comments, issues
confused stories, tells lies, introduces censorship,
issues propaganda campaigns and generally acts as
if it were part of a secret service rather than state
policy and consequently ends up confusing the population.
Any politician attempting to say something more or
less reasonable receives no reliable information either
from Chechnya or the government.
After the story with Gantamirov we cannot expect
any reasonable actions from our government. I am afraid,
that this is a Government of another huge failure.
Therefore, as was the case during the times of Pavel
Grachev (Ed. Defence Minister responsible for sending
the troops to Grozny in 1994), we must propose, insist
and try out plans to ensure both a military and political
settlement in Chechnya.
First of all we should begin by introducing an emergency
regime in the territories bordering the Chechen Republic
and part of Stavropol Region. We must define the zones
of military operations and publish the orders of the
Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of
the Russian Federation and the decisions of the supreme
governing bodies of the country, which lead to military
operations. We must terminate the wide-scale bombing
of the territory of Chechnya and suspend the wide-spread
We should conduct negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov
as the legitimately elected President of Chechnya
on the following six terms: - all hostages should
be freed, the kidnappings and slave trade should be
curbed; - the minimum basis should be established
for a civil law-governed state in Chechnya; - terrorists
announced under international investigation must be
extradited to the authorities of the Russian Federation
or be deported outside Chechnya; - the disarmament
of all unofficial military groupings in Chechnya;
- liquidation of all military repressive bodies; -
all individuals convicted of international terrorism
should not be allowed into Chechnya.
If Aslan Maskhadov refuses to conduct negotiations
under these terms, a 30-day deadline should be granted
to enable all refugees to leave Chechnya. The aforementioned
tasks will be resolved by the federal forces independently.
The federal government must undertake all the requisite
measures to guarantee security, material and medical
provisions for refugees and make sure that the aid
offered by international humanitarian organisations
All this is necessary to save human lives and avert
an irreversible situation. Six months ago Russia saved
NATO from the same deadlock in Yugoslavia. Why shouldn't
we do the same thing for ourselves?