Chechen peace plan risks Kremlin anger

Chechen peace plan risks Kremlin anger

By Jon Boone in London and Neil Buckley in Moscow
Published: February 26 2005 02:00 | The Financial Times

A group representing mothers of Russian soldiers risked Kremlin fury
yesterday when it signed a "road to peace" proposal with Chechen rebel
representatives.

The Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers (UCMS) and Akhmed Zakayev,
envoy of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, agreed at a meeting
in London that the decade-old conflict in Chechnya could not be settled
by force. They blamed the growth of terrorism in the breakaway republic
on the "short-sighted and criminal policies" of the Russian government.

The peace proposal, understood to centre around a gradual cessation of
violence by rebels, was seen as another attempt by Mr Maskhadov to
reach out to ordinary Russians. The rebel leader recently called a
three-week ceasefire and urged Vladimir Putin, the Russian president,
to start peace talks.

The Russian authorities ignored the offer, dismissing Mr Maskhadov as a
terrorist who was not in control of all Chechen forces. But the latest
overtures could put Mr Putin under pressure from his own citizens,
anxious to end the bloody conflict and avoid further terrorist attacks
in Russia such as last year's school siege in Beslan.

Adding to the pressure, the European Court of Human Rights in
Strasbourg on Thursday found Russia guilty of serious breaches of human
rights during offensives in Chechnya.

Mr Zakayev said yesterday's meeting, organised by European parliament
members, showed talking with Chechen leaders was not dangerous. "So far
the Russian side is talking at the distance of a cannon shot, but
hopefully the example of the Russian women will show that talking to us
is better than firing a gun."

The meeting could fuel tensions between the UK and Russia. Russia
claims Mr Zakayev is a terrorist and has demanded his extradition from
Britain, where he has been granted asylum.

Moscow recently issued angry protests when UK TV broadcast an interview
with Shamil Basayev, the Chechen extremist who masterminded the Beslan
attack.

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/d2ed9d46-879e-11d9-ab48-00000e2511c8.html






KOMMERSANT Daily, FEBRUARY 28, 2005

Russian Article as of Feb. 28, 2005


Soldiers’ Mothers Enter Into Amicable Agreement with
Akhmed Zakaev


Delegation of the Union of Soldiers’ Mother Committee came back to
Moscow from Londo Sunday. In London, the soldiers’ mothers sealed a
memorandum with Akhmed Zakaev, spokesman of Ichkeria’s leader Aslan
Maskhadov, stating that, for both parties, there could be no victory
but peace. “Such statements make no sense, as the Arab hirelings, not
the militants are exerting real influence in the republic,” Chechen
authorities claim. The RF Foreign Ministry thinks “the bandits
operating in Chechnya will hardly abandon terror methods.”
London trip of four representatives of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee
led to the memorandum titled ‘A Route to Peace in Chechnya.’ Apart from
the soldiers’ mothers, the document was sealed by Akhmed Zakaev and
representatives of the European Parliament. “The mere title of the
document says we have started breaking deadlock,” Valentina Melnikova,
chairman of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committee told Kommersant.
“First off all, Chechen party is ready to get into the fight against
terrorism; secondly, the necessity for ceasefire has been announced;
and thirdly, Akhmed Zakaev has suggested getting down to
de-militarization and economic reconstruction in Chechnya.”

However, in Russia, not everyone appears to share such optimism. “One
cannot ban soldiers’ mothers from meeting whoever they think they need
[to meet],” Vladimir Katrenko, head of the State Duma’s Committee on
the North Caucasus Problems told Kommersant. “But I am sure these
negotiations won’t yield real results, as Akhmed Zakaev represents no
official authorities and has no power to decide on anything.” Taus
Jabrailov, chairman of Chechnya’s State Council, is certain the
aforesaid meeting “won’t influence the situation in Chechnya.” “Neither
Zakaev himself, nor his joint decision with the representatives of the
committee will have any effect on Basaev,” Jabrailov said. “It is just
another PR-campaign of Ichkeria’s leaders.” The real power is with “the
Arab hirelings” and no talks with the militants make any sense,
Jabrailov said.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also skeptical. “The attempt of
the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committee to take every chance to
prevent new acts of terror and hostage taking in the Caucasus is
understandable,” the ministry said. “But it is hard to count on any
definite results of the meeting; the bandits operating in Chechnya will
hardly abandon terror methods.”

As to Akhmed Zakaev, he is sure such casual reaction of Russian
government towards the meeting is tied to the similar treatment of
Chechen problem. “The responsibility for the armistice destiny wholly
rests with the Russian authorities,” Zakaev said. “The levers of
exerting influence on authorities are with the Russian society. We have
manifested readiness for peace and it is the core outcome of the
meeting with soldiers’ mothers.”

The soldiers’ mothers are going to report results to the Russia’s
authorities in the near term.

http://www.kommersant.com/page.asp?id=550672






Feb 28 2005 1:48PM

Soldiers' mothers won't discuss Zakayev meeting with
govt


MOSCOW. Feb 28 (Interfax) - The Russian Union of Soldiers' Mothers
Committees does not plan to discuss its London meeting with Akhmed
Zakayev, an emissary of former Ichkerian leader Aslan Maskhadov, with
the Russian authorities for the time being.

"At first, we will discuss the results of the London trip with our
regional organizations and colleagues at a St. Petersburg conference on
March 5-6," Union Executive Secretary Valentina Melnikova told Interfax
on Monday.

The union's delegation met with Zakayev last Thursday and Friday in
London, where they adopted a joint memorandum on the Chechen
settlement.

Melnikova said Zakayev suggested using the 1997 treaty between the
then-Russian administration and Maskhadov as a foundation for
settlement.

"In our minds, Chechen units have a joint command. We cannot say
whether it is Maskhadov or some kind of a staff - we are not military
experts, but there is a joint command," she said.

The delegation had "a normal working meeting" with Zakayev, she said.
"This is the first time in Russian history that a public organization
not only started peace negotiations with a warring party but also
crowned the first phase of the negotiations with an agreement. It was
not easy. We had to defend our position and take the position of the
warring party into consideration," Melnikova said.

http://www.interfax.ru/e/B/politics/28.html?id_issue=10754379

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