(Prague, Czech Republic--March 4, 2005) Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, one of the most wanted men in Russia, says a 30-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin would be enough to stop the decade-long conflict in Chechnya. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, he gave a broad outline of peace terms he said could be acceptable to both sides.
Maskhadov made the statement in response to written questions posed by RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. Maskhadov's answers, in both the Chechen and Russian languages, were received today (Friday) via the Internet.
He said it is his firm belief that Putin is getting bad information about the situation in Chechnya from his commanders and does not really know what is going on. Maskhadov said: "We have been suggesting that a 30-minute fair, face-to-face dialogue should be enough to stop this war, to explain to the president of the Russian Federation what the Chechen people do want--I'm sure he doesn't even know that--and also to hear from Putin personally what he wants, what Russia wants in Chechnya."
Maskhadov said a peace dialogue could begin with agreement on the following points: "guaranteeing the security of the Chechen people and protecting Russia's regional and defense interests in the North Caucasus. If we are able to open the eyes of our opponents, the Russian leaders, peace can be established."
Asked about the extent of his authority in Chechnya, Maskhadov said: "I don't think that there are any units on Chechen territory that would ignore my orders. I don't think there are such units in Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia either. This not just empty talk but reality. All military units on Chechen territory and in the neighboring countries are under the subordination of Chechen resistance."
The Russian government has labeled Maskhadov a terrorist and refused to deal with him. It promises to pay a $10.3 million reward for his capture. Maskhadov was elected president of Chechnya in 1997 and removed from power in fierce fighting with the invading Russian army in 1999.
RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service broadcasts 2 hours of programming a day in the Avar, Chechen and Circassian languages to the North Caucasus region, produced in Prague and transmitted to listeners via satellite and shortwave transmission. North Caucasus Service programming is also available via the Internet, at www.rferl.org.