MORE PROGRESS ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana made progress during three-hour talks in Luxembourg yesterday but failed to reach final agreement on a charter between Russia and the alliance, Reuters reported. A joint statement said Solana and Primakov agreed to intensify negotiations on the charter but gave no further details. After yesterdays meeting, AFP quoted NATO diplomats as saying negotiations are in the final phase and that a charter will be ready for signing on 27 May.
OPPOSITION DUMA DEPUTIES SLAM PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov says his supporters in the State Duma will not approve the governments proposed budget sequester of 108 trillion rubles ($19 trillion), AFP reported yesterday. He vowed to force the government to stick to the budget passed in February. Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of the Popular Power Duma faction, complained that the Duma was deceived and wasted time passing the 1997 budget. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev also criticized the budget cuts, adding that the Duma itself is facing a colossal budget crisis, Interfax reported. He blamed First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais for not transferring money to the lower house of parliament, leaving deputies unable even to photocopy bills.
MIXED SIGNALS ON DEFENSE SPENDING
Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Gennadii Kulik said the proposed sequester would reduce defense spending by about 20%, from 104.3 trillion rubles ($18 billion) to 83.1 trillion ($14 billion), ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Aleksandr Zhukov, another deputy chairman of the Budget Committee, said the cuts would affect purchases of new equipment and ammunition but not soldiers wages. However, government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov told Interfax yesterday that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has endorsed the 1997 defense order that keeps funding for new equipment at last year's levels. Government spending on defense has fallen far below budgeted levels in recent years. The military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda warned on 24 April that even if the entire defense budget were paid out, 104 trillion rubles would be enough to supply and equip the armed forces only for nine months.
AIRBORNE TROOPS TO BE CUT AGAIN
Col. Gen. Georgii Shpak, the commander of the Airborne Forces, says his troops will be downsized from 48,000 to 34,000 by 1 September, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. There will be fewer of us, but we will be better, he commented. In yesterdays Komsomolskaya pravda., former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who was once a paratroop general, slammed plans to cut the airborne troops, which, he said, are unique for their ability to quell regional conflicts and fight in extreme situations. Last October, two days before he was sacked from the Security Council, Lebed had said Defense Minister Rodionovs directive to reduce the airborne troops from 64,000 to 48,000 was "criminal." Shpaks predecessor, Col. Gen. Yevgenii Podkolzin, officially retired that month. However, he is widely believed to have been fired for opposing the troop reductions.
PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR STATE ANTI-TERRORIST SYSTEM
Chernomyrdin said yesterday that creating a state system to combat terrorism is a "top priority" and that the government should not be tight-fisted over funding such a body, ITAR-TASS and Russian Independent Television reported. Chernomyrdin was chairing the first session of the government anti-terrorism commission. Russian Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich told the commission that his agency thwarted 573 planned terrorist attacks in Russia last year.
LUZHKOV VS. NEMTSOV OVER HOUSING REFORM
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has once again criticized the governments planned housing reform, saying the public will not be able to pay higher prices for rent and municipal services, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. He added that helping domestic industry should be a higher priority for the government than housing reform. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov argued in todays Nezavisimaya gazeta that Luzhkov has long supported the housing reform outlined in a recent presidential decree. Nemtsov added that Moscow will benefit from reducing state spending on housing, since Moscow spends 43% of the city budget on housing and municipal services--far more than in any other Russian region.
AGRARIAN LEADER SAYS SOWING CAMPAIGN REQUIRES EMERGENCY FUNDING
Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin says funding shortfalls will harm the spring sowing campaign if the government does not take emergency measures, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. He said many farmers lacked the money to buy high-quality seeds. An Agriculture Ministry official told Interfax yesterday that Russian farmers are far ahead of the sowing rate in 1996. However, Lapshin said reports of high sowing rates were misleading because spring arrived early in the Russian south. The governments proposed budget sequester would cut subsidies to the agrarian sector by 55%. In the first quarter of 1997, the government paid out only 11% of the funds allocated for agriculture.
CARS USED BY "PASHA MERCEDES" TO BE SOLD
Two Mercedes that were used by former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev will be sold at the first auction of the governments foreign automobiles, scheduled to take place next month, Russian news agencies reported yesterday, citing First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov urged Yeltsin to issue a decree in March ordering all government officials to drive Russian-made cars. The popular daily Moskovskii komsomolets dubbed Grachev Pasha Mercedes in a 1994 article on alleged military corruption.
CHECHEN PRESIDENT OFFERS REWARD FOR RELEASE OF JOURNALISTS
Speaking on Chechen TV yesterday, Aslan Maskhadov offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the release of four journalists from Radio Rossii and ITAR-TASS who were abducted in Grozny two months ago, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov also expressed satisfaction at the successful police operation the same day in which two abducted journalists from a Urals newspaper were released and two suspects arrested.
IRAQ ENDORSES OIL DEAL WITH RUSSIA
The Iraqi government has approved an agreement whereby the Russian oil companies Zarubezhneft and Lukoil will invest $3.5 billion to develop the Qurnah oil field in southern Iraq, AFP reported yesterday, citing the Iraqi news agency INA. The Russian parliament ratified the deal on 14 April. Former Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov argued at the time that the deal does not contravene international trade sanctions against Iraq.
CABINET RESHUFFLE UNDER WAY IN ST. PETERSBURG
Two of St. Petersburg's five deputy governors have recently resigned and two more are expected to step down next week, RFE/RLs correspondent in St. Petersburg reported yesterday. Some commentators believe the reshuffle is a populist step in response to a referendum drive against Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Supporters of the referendum gathered 40,000 signatures on 1 May alone and seem certain to collect the required 150,000 signatures by 18 May. The referendum would ask St. Petersburg residents whether the city's social and economic policies have lowered their standard of living and whether they believe Yakovlev should step down. Valentin Metus, one of the deputy governors to resign, was responsible for implementing a highly unpopular housing reform in February.
RUSSIA TO CHAIR NEW ROUND OF TALKS ON ABKHAZIA
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told journalists yesterday that Russia will chair a new round of talks between Georgia and the leadership of the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia on expanding the mandate of the CIS peacekeeeping force there, ITAR-TASS reported. The decision to broaden the peacekeepers' mandate was taken at the March CIS summit. Last week, a Russian Foreign Ministry delegation held talks with the Abkhaz leadership, which rejects the proposed deployment of peacekeepers in Ochamchira Raion and argues that no changes can be made in the force's mandate without Abkhazia's consent. Meanwhile, Leni Fischer, the president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, said in Tibilisi yesterday that the Abkhaz dispute is not an obstacle to Georgia's aspirations for full council membership.
GEORGIA REITERATES CLAIM TO PART OF BLACK SEA FLEET
Presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze told journalists in Tbilisi yesterday that Georgia wants to participate in the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on dividing the Black Sea fleet, Interfax reported. Abashidze said that Georgia is entitled to some 20 vessels formerly stationed at the Poti naval base because of its contribution to the creation and upkeep of the fleet. Ukraine, which supports Georgia's claims, handed over one military coastguard vessel to Tibilisi last month.
NEW INFORMATION ON APRIL VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTAN
Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 5 May reported that some 150 people died and more than 200 were wounded when police stormed a prison in Khujand where inmates had staged an insurrection (RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). Earlier reports had said some 20 people were killed and several dozen wounded. The government is reportedly still releasing the bodies of the deceased to their families two or three at a time to avoid fomenting tension. The newspaper also reported that local authorities ignored a warning from Khujand residents of the 30 April assassination attempt on President Imomali Rakhmonov. Two people were killed and more than 70 wounded in the attack. Nezavisimaya Gazeta said the one grenade thrown at Rakhmonov was not responsible for all the casualties and that the presidents bodyguards began firing indiscriminately into the crowd.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES EXECUTION IN KAZAKSTAN
Amnesty International sent a letter to the Kazak government yesterday protesting the execution of Oleg Gorozashvili. The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by RFE/RL, claims the Kazak authorities promised not to carry out the execution until the conclusion of a full investigation into Gorozashvili's case. Amnesty International twice appealed for a stay of execution, but Gorozashvili was nonetheless executed at the end of April. Kazak authorities have not revealed what charges were brought against Gorozashvili.
IS UKRAINE RETHINKING ITS POLICY OF NEUTRALITY?
National Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin, a leading adviser to President Leonid Kuchma, has signaled Ukraine is re-thinking its official policy of neutrality. Horbulin said in a letter to the parliamentary Foreign and CIS Relations Committee, which was made public yesterday, that Ukraine's "absolute neutral and non-aligned status" can be viewed "only conditionally." He added that Ukraine's "sensitive geopolitical position" makes full neutrality impossible and that although Ukraine has not officially considered applying for NATO membership, it reserves the right as a member of the UN to join any political or military union. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is in Kyiv today, following his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenni Primakov in Luxembourg. He is scheduled to meet with Kuchma, Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko, and parliamentary chairman Oleksandr Moroz.
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR GAS DEBT TO TURKMENISTAN
Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko says his government is not responsible for the debt to Turkmenistan for natural gas deliveries. He told journalists in Kyiv yesterday that the accrued debt is the sole responsibility of private Ukrainian gas delivery firms. He added that the government has contracted directly with the private firms for gas deliveries. Meanwhile, Kuchma has abolished the Power Engineering and Electrification Ministry and the State Nuclear Power Committee and created the Power Engineering Ministry to replace them. Yuriy Bochkaryov, the former power engineering and electrification minister, is head of the new ministry.
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ALTERING UNION CHARTER
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has warned Russian lawmakers not to alter the charter outlining steps for further integrating the two states, Reuters reported. Lukashenka noted that the document has already been initialed by himself and Yeltsin. He also criticized the Russian media for "inflicting irreparable damage" and dampening Russian public support for the union. The charter is accompanied by a statement, signed last month by Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, pledging to form a union between the two states. Russian deputies opposed to the union succeeded in reducing the original treaty to the charter, whose signing has been delayed to allow a six-week "public debate."
WORLD BANK APPROVES LOAN TO LATVIA FOR PUBLIC PENSION REFORM
The World Bank said yesterday that it has approved an $18.1 million loan to Latvia to help finance a welfare reform project, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. The bank says that Latvia will become the first country in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE to embark on a major reform of its public pension system. The project, estimated to cost nearly $39 million, will allow pensioners benefits to be calculated in just 15 minutes, as opposed to four to 15 days under the current system.
RUSSIAN DEPUTIES URGE END TO ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION IN LATVIA
A Russian State Duma delegation currently in Latvia has called for an end to what Moscow perceives as discrimination against ethnic Russians in Latvia, RFE/RL and BNS reported. Mikhail Vakulenko, head of the Russian delegation, met yesterday with Latvian parliamentary speaker Alfreds Cepanis, who said Vakulenko threatened economic sanctions against Riga if the situation does not change. Delegates also said the Duma may not ratify a border treaty between Russia and Latvia if the situation of ethnic Russians does not improve.
LITHUANIAN DEPUTIES FORM GROUP FOR TIES WITH RUSSIA
Lithuanian lawmakers have set up a group to establish parliamentary ties with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The group will be headed by Arvidas Vijunas of the ruling Conservative Party. Until now, the legislature had no group for parliamentary contacts with Russia. Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas says he is ready to make an official visit to Moscow but only on condition that the border with Russia is delimited beforehand. The next round of talks on the Lithuanian-Russian border are due to begin shortly.
BALTIC DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN DENMARK
German Defense Minister Volker Ruhe, Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, and Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup arrived in Skagen, Denmark, yesterday for a bi- annual meeting to discuss military cooperation, Polish media reported. Their talks are focusing on training exchanges and joint maneuvers. German and Danish defense cooperation with Poland is outside the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace. The Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian defense ministers are joining the three-day meeting today to discuss multilateral cooperation.
EU WANTS CZECH GOVERNMENT TO RESPOND TO CRITICISM OF IMPORT DEPOSITS
The European Commission expects Prague to respond formally by 12 May to the commissions negative stance on the recent introduction in the Czech Republic of import deposits, a commission spokesman told journalists in Brussels yesterday. The Czech government decided two weeks ago that importers of selected consumer goods and foodstuffs must first deposit money with a Czech bank, which they will be allowed to collect only after six months. The commission says it does not think the trade deficit in the Czech Republic is so critical as to warrant the introduction of import deposits. It added that the deposits are incompatible with the association agreement between the Czech Republic and EU.
ANOTHER CAR EXPLOSION IN SLOVAKIA
A car with foreign license plates exploded in the central Slovak town of Zilina yesterday, Slovak media reported. It was the 37th car explosion in Slovakia so far this year. No one was injured in the blast. A policeman died after a bomb planted in his car exploded in Zilina on 28 April. Less than a week later, another policeman was shot to death in front of his flat in Bratislava's Petrzalka housing estate. The so-called Slovak Secret Army has claimed responsibility for the killings, but most observers believe the murders were committed by criminal gangs. The Slovak government last week offered a 1 million koruny reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the explosions.
HUNGARIAN CABINET PROPOSES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ON REFERENDA
The government yesterday proposed amending the constitution to double the number of signatures needed for a referendum from 100,000 to 200,000, Hungarian media reported. But only 100,000 signatures would suffice if the initiative were approved by the parliament. A referendum could. also take place if proposed either by the president, the government, or one-third of deputies and then approved by the parliament. Referenda on obligations resulting from international treaties, the dissolution of parliament, and the government's program would be banned under the proposed amendments.
CRACKDOWN ON ORGANIZED CRIME IN HUNGARY
Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze say police are currently investigating some 150 mostly fictitious companies and some 200 individuals, Hungarian media reported. They told journalists yesterday that it is hoped the operation will be a turning point in the struggle against organized crime. Horn added that some members of the police and the customs office are suspected of links to organized crime and that the "necessary measures" have been taken against them.
UNHCR BLASTS ITALIAN DEPORTATIONS OF ALBANIAN REFUGEES
A UN refugee affairs official said in Geneva yesterday that persons fleeing Albania should not be sent back before they have had a chance to present their case. She added that "the UNHCR remains against interdiction on the high seas and arbitrary return of people currently fleeing." Meanwhile in Rome, an Italian Interior Ministry spokesman said his country has so far deported 2,712 Albanians as "undesirables." This is about one-fifth of the total number of Albanians who have arrived in Italy this year.
Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, arrives in Tirana today to try to break the deadlock that is holding up plans for early elections in June (see RFE/RL Newsline, 6 May 1997). Meanwhile in Vlora, a bomb destroyed government welfare offices yesterday. In Elbasan, thieves stole flour from an international aid depot. And in a town south of Tirana, three people were killed when a drunk boarded a bus and set off a grenade. Unofficial tallies put the death toll in violence across Albania since early this year at about 700.
CROATIA'S TUDJMAN CALLS FOR DEMILITARIZED FRONTIER
President Franjo Tudjman says he wants the border area between Croatia, Hungary, and federal Yugoslavia demilitarized, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Tudjman was speaking yesterday in Zagreb with Jacques Klein, the UN's top administrator in eastern Slavonia. Tudjman also noted that the Croatian Constitution permits dual citizenship and that he favors an agreement with Belgrade on cross-border traffic. Klein had earlier called for demilitarizing the border and for other confidence-building measures. Belgrade and Croatian Serb leaders seek dual Croatian and Yugoslav citizenship for Croatian Serbs. But Croatian officials have not endorsed the idea, pointing out that Yugoslavia does not grant its ethnic Croats or Albanians the right to dual citizenship.
BOSNIAN SERB TO APPEAL WAR CRIMES VERDICT
Lawyers for Dusan Tadic say he will appeal his conviction for crimes against humanity and torture. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found him guilty today on 11 counts dating from 1992, when he worked as a guard at the Prijedor concentration camp. The court acquitted him on 13 charges of murder. This is the first conviction of an indicted war criminal by the tribunal. Most indicted war criminals, including all major ones, are still free.
BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE
Many Bosnian Serb refugees living in federal Yugoslavia are afraid they will lose their legal rights to remain in that country if they register to vote in the Bosnian local elections slated for September. Some observers consequently expect that only 50,000 of the 200,000 refugees will join in the ongoing registration process, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 5 May from Belgrade.
U.S. SAYS NO TO KOSOVO ELECTIONS
Richard Miles, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Belgrade, told Kosovar shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova in Pristina yesterday that Washington "has never supported the idea of elections for a separate parliament in Kosovo." Rugova wants to call legislative elections with foreign monitors soon because the underground parliament's mandate runs out later this month. The international community has been stressing to the Kosovars recently that their future is within Serbia and not in an independent state or a greater Albania. Diplomats have also been urging the Kosovars to take part in Serbian political life as a means of promoting democracy throughout federal Yugoslavia.
LJUBLJANA NOT READY FOR RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE
Government spokesman Ivo Vajgl told state radio in Ljubljana yesterday that it is unlikely Slovenia and federal Yugoslavia will establish diplomatic relations in the near future. Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in the same program that the main obstacle to setting up formal ties between the two former Yugoslav republics is the "stubborn Serbian bureaucracy." Belgrade insists that federal Yugoslavia is the sole legal successor to Tito's Yugoslavia, while the other republics want a division of former federal assets among all six ex-Yugoslav republics.
MACEDONIA INDICTS TWO MAYORS OVER FLAG- HOISTING
The Interior Ministry filed charges in Gostivar on 5 May against the mayors and some other officials of the predominantly Albanian towns of Gostivar and Tetovo, Macedonian media reported yesterday. The accused allegedly ordered the Albanian flag to be flown from public buildings during recent holidays. In some areas the Turkish flag was also hoisted in contravention of laws on displaying foreign symbols. Macedonian media say that Radio Tirana subsequently defended and encouraged the display of the Albanian flag on Macedonian territory.
BULGARIA'S NEW PARLIAMENT CONVENES
The new parliament is convening today for the first time. Earlier this week, Ivan Kostov, the leader of the United Democratic Forces (ODS) and the most likely candidate for premier, held separate consultations with leaders of the other parliamentary groups to discuss a multi-party "Declaration of National Consensus" on the stabilization of the national currency and proposed economic reform. The declaration, as envisaged by the ODS, endorses the IMF recommendation for a currency board controlling monetary policy, supports the opening of the former secret police files on political leaders and judges, and backs the bid to join NATO and the EU. Georgi Parvanov, the leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said his formation supports most of the declaration's points but noted that the BSP remains opposed to NATO membership. He said his party will make its own proposals on opening secret police files.
FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SCANDAL IN ROMANIA
President Emil Constantinescu says he has dismissed two deputy directors of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) for leaking information to the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Democratic Party (PD). Both parties are members of the ruling coalition. Constantinescu told RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau yesterday that Gen. Constantin Silinescu and Gen. Dumitru Ciobanu leaked the information "recently" and not during the 1996 election campaign, as was claimed last month by the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania. Constantinescu added he sees no reason to dismiss SIE director Ioan Talpes, who, he said, was not involved in leaking the information and whose "performance is good." Ion Diaconescu and Petre Roman, the leaders of the PNTCD and the PD, had denied that SIE information had been leaked to their parties.
ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BONN
Victor Babiuc says Romania's geo-strategic position in the Balkan region and on the Black Sea makes it "an important communication link" between NATO's southern and northern tiers, German media reported. Babiuc, who is in Bonn at the invitation of his German counterpart, Volker Ruhe, told the Friedrich Ebert Foundation yesterday that his country's admission to NATO would improve the organization's security and reduce Romania's own defense costs. Babiuc is currently touring several West European countries in a bid to improve Romania's chances of NATO membership. His next two stops are Norway and Holland.
FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON TREATY WITH UKRAINE
Ion Iliescu, the former president and the current leader of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, says Foreign Minister Adrian Severin should attach a "letter of clarification" to the treaty with Ukraine before it is signed in order to prevent "some of [its] grave consequences," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported yesterday. Iliescu was speaking after a meeting between President Emil Constantinescu and opposition representatives to discuss the treaty. Iliescu said the letter should "make explicit" the condemnation of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and that the signing ceremony should take place after the Madrid July summit on NATO enlargement to avoid the impression that the treaty is being signed under pressure. At the same time, he stressed the PDSR will vote in favor of the treaty.
CIS COMMISSION ON TRANSDNIESTER BEGINS WORK IN MOLDOVA
A CIS Parliamentary Assembly commission headed by Vasilii Likhachev, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, started its work in Moldova yesterday, Infotag reported. Mihai Laur, the Moldovan member of the commission, told ITAR-TASS that the commission backs the idea of granting "large economic powers" to the Tiraspol authorities within the framework of the envisaged accord on a special status for the region. But he emphasized that "political decisions" must be taken in Chisinau alone. At Moldova's request, the commission was set up in March 1996 to help find a settlement to the Transdniestrian conflict. Meanwhile in Moscow, Moldovan presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said Russia and Ukraine must make explicit declarations guaranteeing Moldova's territorial integrity at tomorrow's signing of the memorandum on the settlement of the conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Mediafax reports.
OVERCOMING THE FINAL BARRIERS TO A CHECHEN PEACE AGREEMENT
by Liz Fuller
Over the past few days, the Chechen leadership has moved to deal with two problems that reflect negatively on Grozny and threaten to sabotage ongoing peace talks with Moscow.
The first problem is posed by the so-called "Indians," who are Chechen armed fighters refusing to acknowledge loyalty to President Aslan Maskhadov or to comply with his directives to disarm all guerrilla formations that engaged in the war against Russia. Information about the identity of those militants and their leaders is sparse and contradictory. Since hostilities ceased last August, they have increasingly turned to criminal activities, such as hostage-taking. Many Russian commentators believe the "Indians" were responsible for the recent abductions of journalists and the cold-blooded killings in December of six unarmed Red Cross personnel.
On 4 May, Maskhadov warned that senior Chechen Interior Ministry staff would be fired if they did not make demonstrable progress within one month toward combating crime. Maskhadov was reported to be particularly concerned that the failure to locate and secure the release of four journalists abducted in Grozny in early March showed up his leadership in poor light. He also proposed to evaluate the track record of senior police personnel, prompting charges from among those targeted that the objectivity of the commission tasked with carrying out the evaluations is questionable. Such proposals have in the past yielded minimal results. In mid- March, Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev had offered kidnappers immunity from prosecution if they released their hostages unharmed, but few took him up on his offer.
Maskhadov's second headache is maverick field commander Salman Raduev, who on 4 May claimed to have ordered the recent bomb attacks in Armavir and Pyatigorsk, which killed a total of five people and injured several dozen. Raduev gained notoriety for masterminding the seizure of hostages in the Dagestani town of Kizlyar in January 1996. He was reported killed in a shootout with Russian troops in March 1996 but resurfaced in July. Since then, he has regularly threatened to perpetrate acts of terrorism in Russian cities in revenge for the killing of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, to whom he was related by marriage.
Raduev's threats of reprisals against Russian civilians are grist to the mill of hard-line Russian political figures such as Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, who adduces those threats as evidence that Maskhadov is incapable of establishing his control over Chechnya. In addition, Raduev is said to support Grozny's annexation of regions in neighboring Dagestan inhabited by ethnic Chechens. Such a scenario could act as the catalyst for renewed hostilities in the North Caucasus.
In mid-April, Raduev was reported to have been seriously injured in an assassination attempt. He was quoted by ITAR-TASS as claiming responsibility for the Armavir bombing; but just days later, he denied any involvement either in that incident or in the Pyatigorsk attack. Chechen spokesmen dismissed his claims as the product of a "sick mind." On 5 May, a warrant was issued to search for and detain, but apparently not arrest, Raduev. This measure may have been taken out of genuine exasperation or out of tactical expediency, especially since a firm agreement with Moscow now seems within reach. How easy it will prove to implement that measure is questionable: one of Raduev's advisors told RIA that the field commander presides over more than 4,000 men and that "no one will be able to hold him." (No doubt there are people in both Grozny and Moscow who are fervently hoping Raduev will be killed while forcibly resisting detention.)
Meanwhile, the peace process appears to be gathering momentum. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii told Russian Independent Television on 5 May that a fundamental document on Russian-Chechen relations is near completion. He hinted that it contains some kind of acknowledgment of the sufferings inflicted on the Chechen nation by Russia over the past several centuries, including the mass deportation in 1944. Moscow is reportedly also considering meeting Grozny's demand for a share of the tariffs from oil transported through Chechnya.
Also on 5 May, Russian President Boris Yeltsin instructed government officials to coordinate future statements and initiatives on Chechnya with Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin, who enjoys a constructive working relationship with Maskhadov. Among other things, Yeltsin's directive may have been intended to muzzle Kulikov.
Rybkin predicted that when Maskhadov and Yeltsin meet to hammer out the final differences over the peace agreement, "there will be no shortage of goodwill." But it seems that Maskhadov will need more than his share of good luck.