Author`s name Olga Savka

Ruslan Khasbulatov: Russia Should Not Occupy Chechnya

Ruslan Khasbulatov is a candidate running for the Chechen presidency

PRAVDA.Ru correspondent Ilya Tarasov interviewed former chairman of the Supreme Council of Russia Ruslan Khasbulatov long before he entered the race to become president of Chechnya. However, the interview was not published until now. We decided to publish the interview today within the scope of the series of publications to introduce the candidates running for the Chechen presidency to Russian and foreign readers (the series was started with the publication of the interview with incumbent Chechen administration head Akhmad Kadyrov). In the nearest future, PRAVDA.Ru plans to publish more interviews with other candidacies.

Ruslan Khasbulatov's opening statement:

The evolution of the society searching for peace started slowly but surely last summer. The Russian press started taking constructive positions, public figures and politicians started raising questions about the political regulation of the conflict in Chechnya. In this connection, I set forth my own peace plan for the Chechen republic. I proceed from the fact that the two sides have already reached a high level of exasperation. Serious international organizations are needed there that would organize the negotiation process. Secondly, it is already impossible to consider the Chechen republic as a mere unit of the Russian Federation. The level of alienation of the population and the federal authorities has reached the highest point. Remaining within the framework of the Russian legal space, the Chechen republic is supposed to possess more autonomy and that autonomy is supposed to be guaranteed with the constant presence of such observers as the OSCE, the PACE, the UN. I am not talking about the military force. One should provide some very tough international control to undermine the emergence of new armed groups. Putin was right, when he said that we were not worried about the status of the Chechen republic. We are worried about one question - not to have the republic as a source of threat to Russia's and other states' interests. This of course is correct.

The system of the international patronage should fulfil three functions. The first one of them is the struggle with armed groups - there should not be any armed groups except for law-enforcement bodies. Secondly, one should guarantee safety to every person on this territory. Thirdly, one should prevent from subversive activities against neighboring states. In addition, Russian (military forces - editor’s note) should not occupy Chechnya.

How would you describe the present situation in Chechnya and around it?

I am trying to help not only the Chechens, but President Putin and the Russian nation as well. If we do not start political negotiations, if we do not take this plan as a foundation, it will probably become unacceptable for resistance groups within six months. If something happens to Maskhadov, Zakayev, who is Russia going to negotiate with in the future? A new generation of young commanders in Chechnya, who aspire to become rulers, - it will be impossible to conduct any negotiations with them at all. They will not compromise, they will blow up the whole Northern Caucasus. The economic and the social situation in the region is not very good. In several republics, up to 60 percent of young people are unemployed. They look at the palaces that belong to certain people, but they can not lead a worthy life, because they can not work. These are the conditions that lead to terrorism and wars.

The Chechen resistance now has become internationalized. The whole of the Northern Caucasus takes part in these military actions, the situation is becoming dangerous. If Putin called for political negotiations, it would be good and correct.

Where do you think the money goes that is assigned for the restoration of Chechnya?

Of course, we can guess, where the money goes. Akhmed Zakayev in one of his interviews made a good joke, when he said that as long as there are civil rulers in Chechnya, the republic will not have any problems with money, and as long as Russian troops are in the republic, Chechnya will not have any problems with arms. I would not like to criticize Kadyrov, because virtually, he has no power. Power belongs to military men. The headquarters commander rules everything there. But I would like to warn at once: it is impossible to be a winner in guerrilla warfare. One may dispatch more troops there, assign more budgetary funds, award the Hero of Russia title to thousands of people, appoint them on important posts - this is what military men want, so they want the war to continue. One may turn a blind eye on them stealing oil and destroying the environment. In fact, Chechnya has become an ecological disaster.

Was the avalanche in Osetia caused with the fierce bombardment of the northern slopes of the central Caucasian mountain ridge? In Grozny, there was a movement of an underground layer, which pumped crude to the surface. I am not certain that Grozny is to be restored, I doubt that it is possible to establish normal life there. One should conduct an international ecological study there. When the hostage crisis happened in Moscow, people were gripped with only one certain terrorist act, they did not realize that it was a consequence of the long war. One should stop the war in order to stop terrorist acts and establish peace by all means, including the assistance of a respectable international organization.

Do you think that the FSB, the Interior Ministry in Grozny know the whereabouts of Yandarbiyev and other gunmen?

They know everything perfectly. They are not stupid people, they realize everything. I am not certain that the last year's hostage crisis will not repeat again. That is why, one should stop the war and use my suggestions.

Have you handed you peace settle plan to the authorities?

Of course, I have handed it to Minister Zorin. It happened at the time when there was  pressure on Turkey to cancel the Chechen congress. I had a meeting with Zorin, gave the plan to him and said that I would personally participate in the work of the congress. I also promised to neutralize possible attacks against Russia. I asked the minister to pass the plan to Putin and tell the president that the congress was meant to search for peace.

What can you wish for both Russians and Chechens who used to be friendly nations living on one territory?

I would like to wish everyone peace, the and a fast ending of the war. All people must realize that the war touches upon everyone, it deprives people of a possibility to live normally. A lot of soldiers and officers return home with criminal psychology, they are used to plundering and murdering. People return from the war both physically and psychologically injured. It is everyone's trouble, everyone is to do something for peace.

Ruslan Khasbulatov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov