Staunton, August 31 – Twenty years ago today, Russia and Chechnya signed the Khasavyurt accords, an act that will be remembered not only as the day on which the first post-Soviet Chechen war ended but also one which for the last time “showed that Russia was a federation,” according to Vadim Shtepa.
This accord, the Russian regionalist who now lives in exile in Estonia continues, was possible only in a federal system with self-administered subjects. But “in the late Yeltsin years, not to speak already about the Putin ones, Russia in fact ceased to be a federation having evolved into a harsh unitary ‘vertical’ (rufabula.com/articles/2016/08/31/last-contract).
Because of the significance of this document and because so many of the commentaries about it, especially in Moscow, so distort what it says, Shtepa gives the two-page accord in full. The English version below is taken from peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/RU_960831_Khasavyourt%20Joint%20Declaration%20and%20Principles%20for%20Mutual%20Relations.pdf.
Khasavyourt Joint Declaration and Principles for Mutual Relations
Khasavyourt, Dagestan, 31 August 1996
We, the undersigned,
Taking into account the progress achieved in implementing the agreement on the cessation of military activities,Striving to create mutually acceptable preconditions for a political resolution of the armed conflict, Recognising the inadmissibility of using armed force or threatening its usage in the resolution of all issues, Proceeding from the universally recognized right of
peoples to self-determination, the principles of equality, voluntary and free expression of will, strengthening interethnic accord and the security of peoples, Expressing the will to protect unconditionally human rights and freedoms and those of the citizen, irrespective of ethnic origin, religious beliefs, place of residence or any other distinctions, and to prevent acts of violence against political opponents, in doing so proceeding from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Have jointly developed Principles concerning mutual relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic, on the basis of which the future negotiation process will be conducted.
A. Lebed [for the Russian Federation] and A. Maskhadov [for Chechnya]
B. Khartamov S. Abumuslimov
31 August 1996
In the presence of the Head of the OSCE Assistance Group of the Chechen Republic, (signed) T. Guldimann
Principles for Determining the Basis for Mutual Relations
between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic
1.An Agreement on the basis for mutual relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic, to be determined in accordance with universally recognised principles and norms of international law, should be achieved by 31 December 2001.
2. A Joint Commission shall be established by 1 October 1996, composed of representatives of the organs of state power of the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic, the tasks of which shall be:
· To monitor the implementation of Decree No. 985 of the President of the Russian Federation of 25 June 1995 and to prepare proposals concerning the completion of the withdrawal of troops;
· To prepare and monitor the fulfilment of agreed measures against crime, terrorism and manifestations of ethnic and religious enmity;
· To prepare proposals for the restoration of currency, financial and budgetary interrelations;
· To prepare and submit to the Government of the Russian Federation programs for the restoration of the socio-economic structure of the Chechen Republic;
· To monitor the coordinated interaction of the organs of state power and other interested parties in the provision of food and medicines for the population.
3.Legislation of the Chechen Republic shall be based on the observance of human and civil rights, the right of peoples to self-determination, the principles of equality among nationalities, the guaranteeing of civil peace, interethnic accord and the security of those residing on the territory of the Chechen Republic, irrespective of their ethnic origin, religious beliefs or other distinctions.
4.The Joint Commission shall complete its work by mutual agreement.
Shtepa points out that “nothing is said in this document about ‘the separation’ of Chechnya. The resolution of the status of the republic is put off for five years over the course of which intensify negotiations were to take place. But instead of negotiations, Russia in 1999 began the second Chechen war and President Maskhadov was declared ‘a terrorist.’”
Russia’s negotiator, General Aleksandr Lebed, in September 1999 said what he thought he and Aslan Maskhadov had achieved. He suggested that the two of them had “given Russia a chance s rare for it to escape from a war which had brought it from 80,000 to 120,000 deaths. But what happened then?” (russianseattle.com/news_092899_exo_lebed.htm).
“In May 1997, the president of Russia and the president of Chechnya signed ‘a peace treaty,’ in which Yeltsin with the stroke of a pen eliminated any reference to the Khasavyurt agreements. For two and a half years after this event,” Lebed pointed out, “nothing happened.” And that led to disaster.
Shtepa takes up the story: “Having become prime minister in August 1999, Putin committed himself to the restoration of ‘the territorial integrity of Russia,’ which meant the complete ignoring of the Khasavyurt accords and the renewal of the Chechen war. And the war of course led to the radicalization of attitudes, including religious ones.”
In fact what happened in Chechnya in the 1990s was that its people “’took as much sovereignty as they could swallow,’” as Yeltsin suggested for all the non-Russian republics in 1990. But four years later, Shtepa says, “he forgot his own words and returned Russia to its imperial ‘one and indivisible’ paradigm.”
Like General de Gaulle in France, General Lebed was “a unique personality” who could “conduct peace talks with the Chechens and return the country to a policy of real federalism.” Not surprisingly, “the imperial ‘patriots’ already in 1996 called him ‘a traitor,’” just as French radical nationalists did de Gaulle.
(An even more interesting parallel for Lebed was offered by the then head of the Russian interior ministry, Shtepa says. Anatoly Kulikov compared Lebed to General Vlasov who led the Russian Liberation Army against Stalin during World War II and was executed by Stalin after that conflict.)
Shtepa expresses regret that “today in Russian politics, no such people are around. All of the present-day generals close to power are mutually interchangeable special service ‘cogs’ of a single imperial system. The federation in Russia has been replaced in principle.”
But as the regionalist writer says, “the restoration of the imperial has led to an unexpected result,” one that has been pointed out by Andrey Piontkovsky and others. “Seeking to make Chechnya ‘an inalienable part of Russia,’” Shtepa says, has created a situation in which “Russia itself has become an inalienable part of Chechnya.”