Staunton, August 31 – Twenty-five years ago today, Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov and then-Russian Security Council head Aleksandr Lebed signed an accord that called for the end of the first post-Soviet Chechen war and set the stage for Chechnya to achieve independence by 2001.
To this day, many Russians view the agreement as an act of betrayal by Lebed and even as a cynical ploy by him to run for president of the Russian Federation; but because Moscow failed to live up to the agreement, something that could have been a Gaullist-style end of an Algerian-like conflict, it did not end the war but only introduced a brief pause.
Four years later, Vladimir Putin blew up the apartment blocks and used that as a casus belli to relaunch an even more brutal campaign against Chechnya, one that had three consequences. First, it succeeded in transforming what had been a secular nationalist movement among the Chechens into one informed by Islamist ideas.
Second, it demonstrated to all the non-Russians of the once and former Russian empire that nothing the Kremlin said or agreed to could be trusted but that instead, Moscow would invariably pursue its imperialist goals even if it had to give the appearance that it was prepared to do something else.
And third, as Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based portal Region.Expert, points out, the Khasavyurt accords or more precisely the way in which Russia betrayed them did not make Chechnya “’an inalienable part of Russia’ as Yeltsin wanted.” Instead, it transformed Russia “into an inalienable part of Kadyrov’s Chechnya” (svoboda.org/a/ne-zahoteli-kak-v-parizhe-vadim-shtepa-o-25-letii-dovogora-v-hasavjyutre/31435180.html).