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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maskhadov Best Hope For Stability

News emerging from Chechnya of a split in the government of President Aslan Maskhadov is confusing, but it clearly bodes no good for Russia. The lesson should be that Russia must move urgently to conclude deals that will help the rebel republic get back on its feet.


Despite the extremist forces in Chechen society that threaten to reduce the region to anarchy, Maskhadov has managed to win the support of most of Chechnya's warlords.


His government has provided a moderate partner with which the Kremlin has at least a chance of developing the civilized dialogue that will be needed if Russian-Chechen relations are to recover from the bitter war of 1994 to 1996.


Unfortunately, recent signs from the region suggest that Maskhadov's government is under increasing strain. The wave of kidnappings and terrorism that has wracked the region since the end of the war has shown no sign of abating, despite repeated pledges from Maskhadov to bring it under control.


This past week has seen a bomb attack near Chechnya's border that claimed the lives of 11 Russian policemen. The persistent cycle of hostage-taking has so far this month claimed at least four more foreigners, including a British couple, a French aid official and a Slovak worker. While it is not clear whether any of these crimes have been committed by Chechens, they create an image of growing lawlessness in the region.


Adding to the tension are Thursday's reports that Shamil Basayev, the most powerful and charismatic of the wartime Chechen field commanders, was withdrawing from Maskhadov's unity government.


This would be a blow to Maskhadov, who is already facing opposition from rogue armed groups and political rivals like Salman Raduyev and Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.


Such a turn of events might please some hawks who dream of reasserting by force Russian sovereignty. But Russia's long-term interests would be much better served by looking for a way to defend the Maskhadov government, which still remains the best hope for stability.


To this end, the Kremlin should push ahead with all speed to conclude key economic deals with Chechnya on customs, banking and the terms for the transit of Azeri oil across Chechen territory to Russian points.


The Kremlin must also give Maskhadov time and support in his battle against the forces of lawlessness in his country.


The Maskhadov government needs a regular money supply to maintain its authority and start enforcing law and order. It also needs some concrete achievements to show its people that stability and accommodation with Russia can work.