Maskhadov was not a terrorist. As a career army officer, he did not believe in terrorism as an effective weapon. Artillery Colonel Maskhadov left the Russian Army in 1992 to become the rebels' chief of staff because he was a nationalist, not because he was an Islamist. Maskhadov was ready to surrender to Moscow a large portion of future Chechen sovereignty in exchange for a formal declaration of independence and an international guarantee that the Russian military would never again invade Chechnya.
Why did the Kremlin assassinate him then? Why was Maskhadov denied dignity in death and his relatives denied timely access to his body? Chechen separatist sympathizers among the local population will surely hate Russia all the more for this affront. By disgracing Maskhadov, the Kremlin also dishonors its own military, which the deceased leader often defeated in battle. Most Russian generals that fought Maskhadov or negotiated with him held the late Chechen president in high esteem.
In being denied a proper burial, Maskhadov resembles many of his fellow Chechens, the men, women and children who were kidnapped, tortured and massacred by the Russians and their local Chechen henchmen. Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, occupied Chechnya has many unmarked mass graves.
This, apparently, is the main reason the Kremlin wanted Maskhadov dead and refused to negotiate an end to the war. Even a partial troop withdrawal from Chechnya and the arrival of international missions could document the true level of atrocities, perhaps comparable to those of the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Kosovo. While Putin rules, there will be no peace. The Kremlin rulers do not want to go the way of Milosevic.
In the same issue, writing from a much more Kremlin-friendly perspective, U.S. academic Robert Bruce Ware expresses the belief that
whatever Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov may have been in 1995 or 1997, he was a terrorist on the day he died. As compared to a monster like Chechen commander Shamil Basayev, Maskhadov might have been described as a "moderate" up to 1998. In January 1997, he became the first and last legitimately elected president of Chechnya. However, his incapacity to cope with pressures endemic to Chechen society led to his drift toward radicalism beginning in the latter part of that year.Ware considers that
because of his iconic status, Maskhadov's death was necessary for the stabilization of the North Caucasus, but it is far from sufficient. In all but his iconic status, Maskhadov will be quickly replaced, as Basayev would be. In order to begin stabilizing the North Caucasus, the Kremlin first must support human rights and genuine democratic procedures throughout the region, beginning with the upcoming Chechen parliamentary elections. Instead of consolidating corruption, the Kremlin, secondly, must strive to reduce it. Finally, Russian officials must stimulate dramatic and widespread economic development. Otherwise, poverty, unemployment, corruption and despair will continue to nourish radicalism, alienation and instability in the region. Westerners who claim to care about the peoples of the North Caucasus should put their money where their mouths are by offering tangible assistance to stimulate economic development in this region.
Meanwhile, it's reported that the house in which Maskhadov was killed has been demolished by Russian special forces, and speculation about the details of the assassination continues, with a suggestion, based on eyewitness accounts and off-the-cuff statements by Ramzan Kadyrov, that Maskhadov was actually shot in an execution-style murder, with a subsequent attempt by special forces to make his death seem the result of a "battle" which never actually took place.
(via BH, ML)