Johnson's Russia List
2 June 2001
May 31-June 3, 2001
CHECHNYA: THE THIRD FORCE
An interview with Akhmad Shabazov of the Third Force movement
Author: Nadya Gevorkova
THIRD FORCE IS A CONGLOMERATE OF ORGANIZATIONS UNITED TO PROMOTE A PEACE
SETTLEMENT IN CHECHNYA. IT AIMS TO END HOSTILITIES; TO HOLD A CONGRESS AND
CHOOSE A TRANSITION GOVERNMENT FOR CHECHNYA; AND THEN TO ORGANIZED FREE AND
FAIR ELECTIONS. ITS SPOKESMAN SAYS THAT NEITHER SIDE WILL EVER WIN THIS WAR.
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
Akhmad Shabazov represents a conglomerate of organizations united to promote a
peace settlement in Chechnya. The Third Force movement includes the groups For
Civil Rights, Chechen Solidarity, and the Club of University Graduates and
Students; and it offers its own solution to the problem that is Chechnya.
Question: What does the name Third Force imply?
Akhmad Shabazov: There is no unequivocal attitude toward war and peace.
One side is bent on continuing this war to the end, regardless of anything.
Maskhadov and the parliament of Ichkeria represent the other side. There is
also Kadyrov, there are others. The Third Force is not a party out to gain
political mileage. This is a means of consolidating the people and giving them
a chance to express their will. The future of Chechnya depends on this will.
Question: What actions are planned, if any?
Shabazov: The idea is to unite Chechen organizations for the purpose of
finding a way out of the cul de sac. Everyone is welcome to join us, including
Khasbulatov's and Aslakhanov's Union of Consent in Chechnya, Maigov's Chechen
Solidarity, and Visayev's Club of University Graduates and Students. Our
objectives are an end to the hostilities, and negotiations.
We propose that the congress should elect a transition government and
parliament; these two structures would then organize free and fair elections
We have drawn up a detailed plan and forwarded it to all Russian
organizations, from constitutional bodies to public groups.
Question: When do you think this might happen?
Shabazov: Everything depends on the federal government. It has to admit
that relations between Russia and Chechnya are not regulated. There are
legitimate authorities in Chechnya, elected in 1998. Their term in office has
not expired yet. No solution is possible without their direct involvement and
participation. The formation of Kadyrov's administration is just an illusion
of settlement. Anyone who disagrees with a peace settlement should go, whether
it's Kadyrov or Maskhadov. These people should delegate their powers to the
transition government, which would then discuss everyone's views with all
Question: Who do you think would make the best national leader
Shabazov: We don't need a national leader. Chechnya has never followed
one man only. There are various internal parties to a settlement in Chechnya -
reconciliation conferences and councils of elders. We need a national
Question: But the federal government will surely want its own
people in the national government of Chechnya too.
Shabazov: There will be no problems if these people simply abide by the
Question: And what status can Chechnya expect in this case?
Shabazov: The federal government considers that Chechnya already has a
defined status. Many in Chechnya refuse to accept it. Our opinion is based on
the status quo. Military methods have failed to solve the problem so far, and
will never solve it. Neither side will ever win this war. The federal troops
are gradually beginning to realize and accept it. The Chechens are defending
their right to live - and are branded as terrorists. The federal government
blames the Chechens for everything and applies more and more pressure, to
civilians as well. Chechens are not allowed to live in Chechnya, they are
harassed in all other Russian regions, and are not permitted to go to Europe
Question: But abductions for ransom, and slavery, are facts - not to be
denied. The Chechens blame the Federal Security Service for the abductions,
the federal government blames the Chechens... Do you expect the transition
government will be able to sort it out?
Shabazov: Abductions are a corollary of the cul de sac situation. It will
end as soon as a compromise is proposed. The economy of Chechnya was wrecked
back in 1994; abductions for ransom and theft of oil have been the only
sources of income ever since.
Question: How would you assess the current activities of the federal
Shabazov: These are attempts to earn something. The federal government
brought contract servicemen and conscripts here. They deal in people, and
await the end of their assignments. Or take the search operations... In fact,
we are dealing with full-scale hostilities - even though the hostilities are
not recognized as such. We understand all too well that the troops will not be
withdrawn. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that their presence
should be regulated by the law.
Question: Do you have support in the upper echelons of government?
Shabazov: We propose a dialogue with everyone. So far, Sharayev with his
Civilian movement, and Unity deputy Borodai have been particularly interested
and constructive. Moreover, we have met with all human rights activists, from
Kovalev to Orlov.
Question: Did you see the instruction issued by Vladimir Rushailo, which
says Chechens must be kept out of the economy and society?
Shabazov: Yes, it lists all Chechen companies, banks, and organizations.
Actually, it is not the first document of this kind.
Question: And you're still hoping that a congress will take place and a
government will be elected?
Shabazov: We aren't just hoping - we are working. When Putin came to
power in Moscow, we thought a search for a way out of the cul de sac was about
Question: After his slogan of "killing them in the toilets"?
Shabazov: There are various ways of boosting one's popularity. We hoped
that this team wanted to preserve the nation and statehood. The Chechens have
been pushed to the line beyond which negotiations become impossible. When an
entire ethnic group is cornered, you can expect it to do something
unpredictable. Moscow ought to remember this, and shouldn't drive the Chechens
to this degree of bitterness.
Question: How would you explain the fact that Muslims around the world -
and even Muslims in the Caucasus (Dagestan, for example) - have withdrawn
their support from Chechnya?
Shabazov: That is not true. It is the upper echelons which don't support
us. Who is working on post-war restoration in Chechnya? Ordinary people from
Dagestan. They need the jobs, because of unemployment in Dagestan itself.
Question: Do you have the support of the Chechen diaspora?
Shabazov: We have distrust, which we are trying to overcome. It is
difficult, but we have made some progress already since last May...
(Translated by A. Ignatkin)