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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin: Invite Dudayev to The Kremlin

Now that President Boris Yeltsin has finally been released from hospital after a 10-day convalescence from minor surgery on his nose, it is crucial that he takes a firm and public grip on the situation in Chechnya to avert what is likely to turn into tragedy, both politically and in terms of loss of life.


If Yeltsin carries out his threat to impose Russia's will on the rebel republic by force and sends his troops to storm Grozny, there is no doubt that the bloodshed will be considerable, both among the civilian population and among the reluctant troops dispatched to the region -- many of whom have already said they do not want to advance any further.


If, on the other hand, the Russian troops stay where they are, poised for an attack that never takes place, before eventually slinking back ignominiously across the Chechen borders, the political fallout for Yeltsin would probably be fatal.


So far, attempts to find a negotiated settlement have been blocked by unrealistic conditions set by both sides. For Moscow to demand that Chechen fighters hand over their weapons before talks can start is patently absurd, just as it is for Dzhokhar Dudayev to insist on a complete Russian withdrawal from the republic as a first move.


These are, after all, the main issues that the two sides need to talk about. With Russian tanks closing on Grozny, the question remains -- how can the coming disaster be stopped even at this, the eleventh hour? How can the guns be silenced before the two sides are committed to a long and dehumanizing war?


After this basic hurdle has been overcome, Yeltsin should try to do what he should have done long ago: Invite Dudayev to Moscow. As absurd as it sounds, all this conflict may need for it to be resolved is for Dudayev to receive the pomp and recognition that he, as president of a self-styled country, so clearly yearns for.


Several prominent figures have suggested that such a gesture would be sufficient to persuade Dudayev to take a realistic approach to the future of Chechnya. He would save face. He could go home armed with a series of Russian assurances about the inviolability of Chechen autonomy, granting it extra rights and powers such as those currently enjoyed by, say, Tatarstan -- which also has a president, parliament and constitution.


Under such circumstances, Dudayev might well give way on the matter of sovereignty and hundreds -- or possibly thousands -- of lives would have been saved. Yeltsin might have to swallow a little pride, but given the alternatives that he risks otherwise, it would be a small price to pay.