29-30 March 2005
Chechnya On the Table
Extracts from the experts' presentations at the Round Table (these are not exact quotations - only an approximate sense of the presentation is given).
Konstantin Kosachev, Head of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs:
"We have gathered in Strasbourg, in order to refute the idea that we cannot provide an
opportunity for everyone to express themselves freely. This has already been suggested in Grozny and in Moscow".
Andreas Gross, PACE rapporteur on Chechnya:
"We should talk as though Maskhadov were still alive".
Alu Alkhanov, President of Chechnya:
"It is not the fault of the people that the war was unleashed. Dudaev, Maskhadov, Udugov, Basaev - they are the guilty ones. The people support me. They are saying, 'We want peace".
Svetlana Gannushkina, Head of the "Citizens' Assistance" Committee:
"Political processes move forward when all the sides and positions are present. We do not have anything to do with politics but we are sorry that there are no representatives of Maskhadov here. The bombing of a peaceful corridor of refugees, "Nord-Ost" etc. - these are all links in the same chain. We are closing our eyes on this tragedy. "Chechenisation" - transferring all activity onto the territory of Chechnya - has failed. "Mop up" operations have become synonymous with horror. We must distinguish between separatism and terrorism. Even if we do not like to even think of separation, we should not take away other people's opportunity to hope for it. It is important that this confrontation does not lead to violence. Examples of solving conflict without bloodshed include: the peaceful break-up of Czechoslovakia, in Canada the 1996 referendum on the separation of Quebec, Northern Ireland and its peace after bloodshed".
Aslambek Aslakhanov, Advisor to President Putin:
"What can be done to lower the threshold of the ruthless attitude towards the Chechen population? The situation in the republic is improving, although slowly. But what are the authorities doing to ensure law and order prevails? I presumed that it would be possible to talk to all participants invited to the Round Table. I believe that there can be no forceful solution to this problem. Even if people are fighting on the streets, they will be reconciled. Before "Nord-Ost" I was for peaceful negotiations with Maskhadov. President Putin never rejected this option, but put forward three demands: that all demands on territorial sovereignty were abandoned; that he dissociated himself from Basaev and that all mercenaries were thrown out. As a human being, I suggest that we hold a political dialogue with the Chechen people themselves. We have elders, women, young people, and the warring side. Since the referendum on the status of the republic and people really did vote at the referendum (around 60% of the population actually voted), there is no reason to negotiate with Ichkeria. The Republic no longer exists, either de jure or de facto. I propose an All Chechen Congress.
Tatiana Lokshina, Head of the "Demos" Centre:
"In Chechnya there are no mechanisms to legally represent all points of view, including those of the separatists, and there are no methods to realise them. Maskhadov was a soldier. Soldiers die, but how can we not give back his body? This is a demonstration of an extreme form of hatred - an insult. In order to solve the problem we must admit that it exists. The official rhetoric of the last two years has been aimed at saying that there is no war in Chechnya. There is a war in Chechnya - a guerrilla war that could last for years. One way of solving this problem is to introduce emergency situation status in Chechnya. In order to change the conflict from being an internal Chechen one, it is important that responsibility lies with the Federal Centre. When people can freely express their will, it will be necessary to introduce EU and OSCE missions in Chechnya to monitor the situation".
Vladimir Kravchenko, General Prosecutor, Chechnya:
"There is no reason at all to introduce an emergency situation. The criminogenic situation shows things have improved. General crime has dropped by 18 percent".
Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, ex-Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation on the defence of human rights in the Chechen Republic:
"The absence of non-governmental organisations today is a "boycott" approach.
We are unlikely to be able to reinstate Ichkeria without bloodshed".
Tadeusz Ivinski, Chairman of the PACE Commission on Migration, Refugees and Demography:
There is a stereotype that Chechens are an unlucky nation (the deportation etc.). It is our task to show that it is a normal nation. Ms. Gannushkina spoke about the necessity of distinguishing between separatism and terrorism and gave examples of conflicts being solved without bloodshed. There are no simple solutions to conflicts, but I hope that we will speak of some sort of autonomy for Chechnya. We are forgetting that between 1996 and 1999 in Chechnya they missed their chance. They created their own little Afghanistan. There must be a social and economic transformation [of Chechnya]. In 1944 Warsaw was three times worse than Grozny, completely ruined, but we restored it. We need to speed up the process. If there are plans to build 180 houses, we should build more. Safety, housing and work. This is the minimum upon which we need to build the process of peaceful settlement".
Musa Umarov, Member of the Federation Council:
"I don't think that there has been a boycott. Their absence shows that they understand that everything in Chechnya is okay. Let all of "that side" admit this and then they will be pardoned and will take part in the political life of the republic".
Nataliya Zhukova, member of the Federation Union of Soldiers' Mothers' Committees:
"An amnesty is needed, as are elections to parliament. Elections at bayonet point, however, are illegal. We should exclude all military personnel from voting - they make up ten percent of the population of the republic. To give the military a peacekeeping status instead of a punitive image, we need to reduce their number".
Lema Khasuev, Ombudsman in Chechnya:
"We are Chechens, but we are building our lives in the state where we live.
Some people are stopping the president from building peace in Chechnya, passing themselves off as human rights defenders, and doing things that divide the nation".
Vladimir Lukin, Human Rights' Representative in the Russian Federation:
"I was worried that there would be a conflict between the two positions: people on one side will be organised to say one thing, and on the other - organised to say something else. However, it is people who are talking here and not instruments for organised pressure".
Yves Cohen, historian, French expert on the Caucasus:
"The desire on the Russian side to negotiate was clearly demonstrated when Maskhadov was killed. Maskhadov would have been more dangerous at negotiations than in exile. The Russian side wanted other participants at the Round Table, but not Maskhadov. We need legitimate representatives of Maskhadov here. We could talk about Umar Khambiev. It is a real shame that several representatives of Chechen society are not here and a shame that Russia has not tried to get them to participate. I wanted to leave after my presentation, but have decided to stay as a mark of my respect to those who are here".
Franz Timmermans, PACE deputy from the Netherlands:
"I was really disappointed that several representatives did not come. I hope that they will join in the process later. Independence can take place by mutual consent. From 1996 to 1999 we did not undertake the necessary reconstruction of Chechnya. The funds were not allocated, the mechanisms were not defined, in order to start up the economy. An amnesty for all criminals is not possible. We must judge everyone independently of whether they belong to the separatists or the federal or other structures".
Franz Klintsevich, State Duma Deputy, Russian Federation:
"I personally, under my responsibility as a deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, invite Umar Khambiev to Russia".
Lord Frank Judd, PACE Deputy from Great Britain:
"The test for democracy is when the minority is accepted by the majority. Without respect for human rights there can be no sustainable, long-term democracy. The death of Maskhadov is playing into the hands of extremists. I do not believe that we will be able to secure any substantial changes whilst key figures are absent. Today we are only taking the first step. We should not sentimentalise and say that the future is in education or anything like that. However, we do need to come forward honestly and say we are against terrorism".
Sergei Khaikin, leader "Validata" sociological service:
"I propose that under the aegis of PACE we organise a "Chechen barometer" - a social opinion poll of the inhabitants of Chechnya. We could also run an opinion poll amongst experts. We have run 30 spot studies over the last three years. Around 80% of Chechens are for a "Chechnya within the Russian Federation", and around 15% are for independence. The fact these figures don't change shows that they are trustworthy".
Taus Dzhabrailov, Head of the State Council of Chechnya:
"The fighters have not had any authority in Chechnya for some time. To stop young people joining their ranks we need employment opportunities".
Rudolph Bindig, Head of PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights:
"Nobody here has mentioned international terrorism or external pressure. I can name eight groups in Chechnya who represent: Maskhadov; wahabis; the "siloviki" [security services] and so on. Each group has its own agenda. We need to find who is stirring up the situation. A lot of people talk about the social and economic problems but we need to reduce the level of human rights abuses and find out who is responsible for stirring things up. We have said that we need a clear signal from the highest political level to the security agencies. Now I feel like asking, do the Russian leadership and the President of Chechnya really not have the power to stop the kidnapping of people? When the separatists are here I will ask them the same question, but today we have representatives of the other side here and I want to pose this question to them. We need to include all political powers in this process, whether there are separatists or nationalists behind them".
Akhmar Zavgaev, State Duma Deputy, Russian Federation:
"From the conversations here you would think that 2 political powers are running this fight, but if this is the case where did the 416 mercenaries from 42 countries come from?"
Eli Isaev, Minister of Finance, Chechen Republic:
"We have just been speaking to participants in the protest demonstration opposite the Council of Europe building. It turns out that we knew each other, had common relatives. In the 20 minutes we spoke to them they didn't set out a single demand, just asked about the economic situation in Chechnya".
Marco Michelson, PACE Deputy, Estonia:
"In 1999 Putin said, "We will wipe out all of those who are against us". I don't see any change in the approach to a solution now. The murder of Maskhadov bears witness to this fact. Russia says. "It is our conflict", but I don't agree. If Russia has joined the European Council it must share all its democratic values".
Adam Ablekov, Professor, Economist:
"Russia and Chechnya are like two brothers. Russia is the elder brother and Chechnya the younger one, who plays up every now and again. When an animal or insect is at risk of extinction, they are put in a Red Book. Chechens are a unique people and we also need to write them down in the Red Book".
Translated by Claire C. Rimmer
Korrekturen: Fredi Krebs