. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blame for Chechnya Moscow's New Game

With the announcement that all Russian troops would be withdrawn from the breakaway republic of Chechnya, the long and bloody conflict finally came to an end. But the signs were clear that the Moscow leadership is turning its attention to assigning blame for the 21-month war, which took tens of thousands of lives, destroyed the Chechen economy and scarred a generation.


"Itogi," a weekly news program on NTV Independent Television, hit hard on the blame issue in its extensive coverage of the withdrawal order.


In his interview with Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, "Itogi" anchor Yevgeny Kiselyov repeatedly pressed for the names of those "who were personally and materially interested in a continuation of the Chechen war, people here in Moscow."


Maskhadov avoided the issue, citing conflicts in the "higher echelons" of Russian power.


"These problems must be resolved here, in Russia, without our participation," he said. "If the Chechen side has facts or arguments, if some decision is adopted to this effect, a mutual decision, a decision of the two sides, then, evidently, if these names are known to us, they will be named."


"Itogi" also ran clips from an earlier broadcast of an interview with Arkady Volsky, then head of the Russian delegation to the Chechen peace talks. Volsky was complaining about leaks within the Russian leadership that gave the Chechen side the advantage in the negotiations.


Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov told ORT Russian Public Television on Saturday that high-ranking Russian officials in 1995 had tried to "blackmail" the Chechen side after peace talks with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ended.


Udugov said the officials had demanded money, but the Chechen side had refused to pay. He declined to specify what the blackmailers had demanded, or who they were, saying he did not want to disrupt the current peace process. He said, however, the officials were "fairly close" to President Boris Yeltsin.


Udugov also spoke of a "party of war," which had been made up of Yeltsin's close entourage. He said the group had sabotaged efforts to forge contacts between Yeltsin and ex-Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.


The "party of war" has been often identified with ex-presidential security service chief Alexander Korzhakov, former federal security service director Mikhail Barsukov and ex-first deputy prime minister Oleg Soskovets. All three men were dismissed from government service in June.


Since then Korzhakov has become the center of a sleaze campaign that is threatening to engulf the highest echelons of the Russian government.


On Saturday, Moskovsky Komsomolets published additional material concerning the alleged removal of $500,000 from the Russian White House by two Yeltsin campaign workers last June.


The daily newspaper presented what it said were partial transcripts of the interrogations of Arkady Yefstafiyev and Sergei Lisovsky after their arrest June 19. During the interrogation, conducted by Valery Streletsky, a Korzhakov deputy in charge of ferreting out corruption in the government, the two gave contradictory testimony.


Yevstafiyev said he met Lisovsky by chance at the Russian White House, while Lisovsky said they went there together.


Neither explained where they got the $500,000, but Lisovsky, who organized a series of pro-Yeltsin pop concerts, said the money was "apparently" for payment to performers.


According to Moskovsky Komsomolets, Korzhakov's men also caught Boris Lavrov, a member of the Yeltsin campaign team's control-accounting group, with an additional $38,850. Lavrov, who was found in the office of Deputy Finance Minister German Kuznetsov, told his interrogators he had brought $538,850 to the White House after receiving it from the ministry's foreign credits and monetary debts department, located in a different government building.


Korzhakov was dismissed the day after the detentions. Anatoly Chubais, then head of Yeltsin's campaign and currently his chief of staff, claimed at the time that the money was planted on the two campaign workers.


The Moskovsky Komsomolets piece is just the latest in a war of mud that has continued now for over a month.