Grozny, 15 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov today offered to compromise with Russians to end the fighting in
his republic as Russian forces were battling on the outskirts of the
capital, Grozny. But Russia signalled that it only wanted to discuss humanitarian
issues. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said he was ready
to meet Maskhadov today or tomorow but indicated the talks would be about
evacuating civilians trapped in Grozny.
There was a question mark over whether Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman Knut Vollebaek, who is touring
the North Caucasus, would be allowed to be involved in any talks.
Maskhadov said he wants the OSCE chief present at any meeting with
Shoigu and Vollebaek said he is willing to attend. The OSCE wants a role in
helping to settle the Chechen conflict.
Shoigu was cool to the idea of Vollebaek taking part in a meeting
with Maskhadov. Russia has consistently rejected any offers of outside
mediation. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeyev,
accompanying Vollebaek, said Chechnya was an internal Russian affair and
called outside mediation proposals "artificial."
But ITAR-TASS said the government was considering allowing
Vollebaek's involvement. Vollebaek was due to fly this morning to the
Russian-controlled part of Chechnya but his flight was delayed by bad
weather. He said he is ready to stay on until Christmas if he can play a
Chechen and Russian sources both said Russian forces were today
attacking in suburbs in the north and southeast of Grozny and both claimed
to have killed high numbers of the enemy.
Russian Deputy Chief of Staff General Valery Manilov said there
would be no massive air or ground assault against Grozny while civilians