The Cost of Peace

Will referendum in Chechnya entail events similar to those occurred in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt?
The PR-campaign connected with the referendum in Chechnya has entered its final stage. Since the official authorities declared March 23 the date when the referendum was to take place in the republic, practically all prominent figures have expressed their opinions on the problem. There are lots of supporters and opponents of the referendum in Russia and beyond its bounds. Human rights activists and several journalists traditionally object to the referendum. Europe, PACE to be more exact, that has been against the referendum till recently (the European parliamentarians still cannot tie together the two ends of one political rope: the martial law that is actually in force in the republic and free elections), but now Europe doesn’t say a word. Have they finally understood that Russia is right in this situation? Nothing of the kind! The situation is much simpler: the fact that Europe is silent is the retribution for Russia’s position concerning the Iraqi problem.

As for supporters of the referendum in Chechnya, they are making too much of it sometimes: it is easy to get too optimistic about the idea after listening to their speeches. This is how supporters of the referendum see further development of the situation: they say peaceful life will be back to the republic after the referendum, guerrillas will no longer be fighters for the independence of the Ichkeria republic (this is how Chechnya is called by guerrillas themselves), they will become ordinary bandits. It may seem funny, but it is not in fact.

Russia President Vladimir Putin also expressed his support of the referendum in Chechnya: he said it was a “historical” public referendum in the Chechen republic. He said: “Referendum is an important measure to overcome the devastation. It’s a step toward order establishment in the republic. I am sure that a constitution adopted by the people is a basis of political regulation in Chechnya. Adoption of the constitution will give an opportunity to elect truly democratic authority enjoying people’s trust.”

In Putin’s words, the referendum will recommence the constitutional process interrupted by the coup organized by Johar Dudayev in 1991. The Russian president also touched upon the problem of cleansing, the most painful topic for Chechens. In Putin’s words, it’s necessary to create conditions under which Chechen citizens won’t be afraid of “door knocks at night and hide from so-called cleansing.” Vladimir Putin promised to reduce the number of block posts even more; he said that measures must be taken to make personnel of remaining block posts stop bribe-taking and focus on struggle with terrorism more.

The Russian president said that the government started payment of compensations to Chechen citizens whose houses were destroyed during the war. In the words of President Putin, these are 280 thousand people.

The Chechen leadership enthusiastically welcomed the promises of reduction of the block posts and of financial investments into Chechnya economy (although billions of rubles have been already invested in it before). Head of the Chechnya provisional government and the main candidate to the presidential post Ahmad Kadyrov, who also welcomed Putin’s statement, especially liked the promise to settle social and economic problems in the republic. He said: “It is especially important that the words were pronounced by the Russian president who is known for the feature to always keep his promises; I am sure that everything he said will be put into practice.”

Last week the head of the Russia Presidential administration, Alexander Voloshin said that development of a treaty on division of power between the Chechen republic and the federal center will be started right immediately after the referendum on Chechnya constitution. In Voloshin’s words, he himself doesn’t support the idea of concluding treaties between the federal center and the Russian Federation subjects, but the situation in Chechnya needs exactly this treaty.

As Vladimir Putin says, the constitution will give the Chechen people an opportunity to regulate their life independently; they will be able to see fulfilled the widest autonomy that is so much spoken about. For this purpose, a special treaty between the Federation and the republic will be developed and concluded, the president says.

The limits of autonomy are clearly fixed in the RF Constitution, but it is not clear whether they will satisfy Chechens or not. Let’s assume that a new special treaty will give Chechens maximally broad authorities, then it is not ruled out that other republics in the RF structure, Bashkiria, Tatarstan, Dagestan, etc. will demand the same authorities for themselves. The Kremlin needs peace in Chechnya, but what price is it ready to pay for this peace?

Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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