Friday, May 27, 2022

25 Years Ago, Moscow Recognized Chechen Independence De Facto, an Action that May Grow in Importance after Putin’s War in Ukraine

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 12 – Many last year marked the 25th anniversary of the Khasavyurt Accords which ended the first post-Soviet Chechen war, but there is a danger that far fewer will recall today the 25th anniversary of Russia’s de facto recognition of Chechen independence, a recognition that Moscow soon violated but may become more important in the future.

            Indeed, two Chechen participants involved in negotiations with the Russian side over that document now say that they are convinced that the May 1997 agreement will ultimately become the basis of relations between Russia and Chechnya in the wake of Putin’s war in Ukraine (

            Following the Khasavyurt agreement, Moscow and Grozny began a slow process of negotiation about the future of relations between them. On May 12, 1997, Boris Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov met in the Kremlin and signed a Treaty on Peace and the Principles of Relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic Ichkeria.

            That document marked the first time in which Russia recognized the existence of Ichkeria. Moreover, on the same day, Maskhadov and the Russian prime minister signed an inter-governmental agreement. Those actions, Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois law school said, constituted de facto recognition of Chechen independence by the Russian state (

            This remarkable development received a mixed reaction in Chechnya itself, where many of Maskhadov’s opponents rejected this Russian move as too little too late. And in any event, Moscow soon violated the provisions of the agreements Russian leaders had signed and ultimately launched the second and even more destructive Chechen war.

            Nevertheless, those Chechen leaders who were involved in the 1997 talks now look back on the agreement as the basis for what they hope will be the future normalization of relations between the two countries. Among them is Akhmed Zakayev who heads the Chechen government in exile.

            He sees the agreement as the only possible legal basis for resolving disputes between Chechens and Russians, something he believes may be possible after Putin’s war in Ukraine. Another Chechen participant in the 1997 talks, Ruslan Kutayev who now heads the Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus, agrees.

            Kutayev says that if earlier the world closed its eyes to Russian criminality in Chechnya, it has now had its eyes opened by similar Russian crimes in Ukraine. That gives hope for the future, and the 1997 agreement can serve as the foundation for the development of new relations between Chechnya and Moscow.

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