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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Vacillating Spurs Tension

The growing tension in Chechnya that has forced security council chief Alexander Lebed to make a rushed visit Tuesday to the region is the result of a drift on Chechnya policy in the Kremlin, according to analysts.


Russia's leaders find themselves again in a dilemma as to what to do in Chechnya. "It is patent, incredible though it may be, that Russia's leaders have not thought out a strategy for a way out of the conflict," Izvestia wrote Saturday.


Neither the president, nor his administration, nor the speakers of the two houses of parliament have said what they think should be done, the paper went on.


"And Lebed himself, having completed his decisive break for peace, after coming under judgement by all, has not stated what his peace will encompass and how relations between Russia and Chechnya will develop," Izvestia said.


The underlying message of the article is that no one in the Russian leadership wants to stick his neck out and then be blamed for losing Chechnya.


The newspaper said that part of the Kremlin's dilemma results from the fact that some Chechen separatists have made it clear they consider Chechnya to be already independent.


This statement casts doubt on a face-saving element of the deal between Lebed and Chechen commander Aslan Maskhadov three weeks ago that agreed that a decision on Chechen independence would be put on hold for five years.


The Kremlin has tried to avoid the political embarrassment of admitting Chechnya is independent by restating that nothing in the peace deal undermines Russia's "territorial integrity," most recently Saturday when Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin joined in the chorus rejecting Chechen independence.


But Izvestia questioned whether the Kremlin was serious about confronting Chechen separatists on the issue.


"From the Moscow platforms the only indistinct, indecipherable incantation heard is about the integrity of Russia. What does that mean in the face of the firm and simple position of the separatists? A new war?" the paper asked.


Duma deputy Anatoly Shabad, a member of the liberal Russia's Democratic Choice Party, also raised doubts about the long term intentions for Chechnya of Lebed, who has until now been the only vociferous supporter of peace in the region. "We do not have full confidence in his stance and suspect that it may be momentary and based on the demands of the current situation," Shabad said.


Lebed opted for peace out of necessity, after he made a thorough assessment of the military position of Russian forces in the wake of the disastrous loss of the capital city Grozny six weeks ago, Shabad said, rather than out of any understanding that the use of force was morally wrong.


Shabad, who has just returned from Chechnya, said that Russian commanders who last week halted a withdrawal of troops agreed to under the peace deal might be trying to ensure that the Moscow-backed government of Doku Zavgayev is given a strong role in an interim coalition cabinet now being established for the region.


After a period in the Kremlin's doghouse, signs are emerging that Zavgayev's fortunes may be about to take a turn for the better. Lebed, who at the beginning of his peace effort had only caustic comments to make about Zavgayev, met with the Chechen leader last week.


Zavgayev, who fled to Moscow after the Chechen rebels seized control of Grozny, also met with Chernomyrdin Monday, although he was excluded from the policy discussion on Chechnya on Saturday.


Shabad said the renewed attempts to raise Zavgayaev's status were one bell-weather of the Kremlin's ambivalence on the peace process.


"This is another military and political adventure, because today to discuss Doku Zavgayev is the same as to discuss resumption of the war," he said.