CHECHNYA: WHO WILL CONTROL THE OIL?

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CHECHNYA: WHO WILL CONTROL THE OIL?

Argumenty i Fakty, April 2, 2003, p. 2

At their last meeting President Vladimir Putin and head of the Chechen administration Akhmad Kadyrov discussed an agreement on the division of powers between Moscow and Chechnya. Putin’s stand on this matter is as follows: “The Constitution provides all that is needed for broad autonomy.”

Chechnya’s oil is the key issue. According to official data, Chechnya’s output is around a million tons. The actual output is anybody’s guess. Chechen oil is high-quality, suitable for use in the production of aviation oils. At present, the state-run company Rosneft extracts oil in Chechnya. Akhmad Kadyrov says Chechen operators should take over this sector. It may be run by either private companies or the government of Chechnya.

Preparations for the presidential election in Chechnya are taking place against the backdrop of talks about the future of the oil sector. The election will be held on December 14, simultaneously with the election to the federal Duma. According to some polls, Aslanbek Aslakhanov (Duma member for Chechnya) has 30% support, while Kadyrov has 10%.

RUSSIA’S FOREIGN MINISTRY CALLS US AMBASSADOR TO ACCOUNT

Izvestia, April 3, 2003, p. 3 EV

Yesterday Russia’s Foreign Ministry notified U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow that during air strikes on Baghdad on April 2 several bombs were dropped on the residential area in which the Russian Embassy in Iraq is situated. According to the official statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, the strikes posed a threat to the lives of embassy staff. Russia demanded that “the U.S. authorities take urgent and comprehensive measures to preclude such dangerous and inadmissible incidents in future”. Russia’s Ambassador to Washington Yury Ushakov also conveyed this demand to the U.S. administration.

DEFENSE OF AN OLIGARCH

Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 3, 2003, EV

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky met with members of the Liberal Russia Party who have broken away from the party’s majority. The meeting occurred in London on the eve of a court hearing for Berezovsky’s case. Eleven of the splitters had come to London to discuss preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary election in Russia with Berezovsky. They met at a London hotel. The oligarch once again stressed the need to forge an alliance with the communists. He looked fairly confident and contented. A supporter of Berezovsky told us Berezovsky is confident that the British authorities will not extradite him to Russia.

POLLSTER SERGEI KHAIKIN: CHECHNYA CEASING TO BE A "BLACK HOLE"

Izvestia, April 3, 2003, pp. 1-2

Results of the first substantial study of public opinion in Chechnya have been released by pollster Sergei Khaikin, whose survey covered 75 towns and villages across Chechnya. It reflects opinions of all groups of the population: educated and uneducated people, highlanders and lowlanders, men and women. The research tools included in-depth interviews (two to three hours) and focus groups. Mr. Khaikin told us about the results.

Question: What made you take up this research?

Sergei Khaikin: Chechnya is more mythicized for Russians than Russia for Chechens. All that is said about Chechnya is just personal opinions of people who are asked to express them.

Question: Do you mean to say that public opinion in Chechnya has not been studied?

Sergei Khaikin: Chechnya is a closed world of suffering, hope and expectations. Chechens get an illusory picture of themselves. In conditions when rumors are excessive, national television is the only source of knowledge about themselves. But television usually presents anti-Chechen ideas and statements. In many Russian movies, gangsters are mostly Chechens, the mafia is usually of Chechen origin. It is good that they have not placed the blame for the Moscow theater hostage-taking on all the people of Chechnya.

Question: What objectives did you set yourself?

Sergei Khaikin: We pursued two main goals: to identify the main grievances among the Chechen people and tell the people the truth about themselves. Another task was to make a person believe that our mirror is not a distorting one.

Question: Did they believe you?

Sergei Khaikin: We anticipated that the most likely reaction to our research group would be “Who are you?” or something like this. That is why we set up an independent polling center which would have the confidence of Chechens. It was opened at the national university, which is a harbor of science and knowledge. Besides, it is not involved in politics.

Question: Which results were the most surprising and unexpected for you?

Sergei Khaikin: I guess the fact that nearly one third of respondents can see some signs of peace. People in Chechnya are responsive to constructive decisions. A number of checkpoints have been removed, and people appreciate that. The case of Colonel Budanov is being re-examined. The address of the Russian president did not pass unnoticed either. Nonetheless, 50% of the population consider that nothing has changed, while 10% think the situation is worsening.

Surely, responses to the question on Chechnya’s status surprised us: two-thirds want Chechnya to remain part of Russia. Our first reaction was “That cannot be true!” But one has to realize that these two-thirds include people who are very different and have different reasons. Someone has gone off the idea of independent Ichkeria. Some want to restore their homes. Some believe that their children will have an opportunity to get an education.

But when we were invited to appear on Chechen television to talk about our research, my Chechen colleagues begged me not to mention that two-thirds of respondents regarded Chechnya as part of Russia. They said: “You will leave, eventually, while we have to stay and live here!”

Question: According to the results of your poll, 20% of Chechen residents think that Chechnya should become a sovereign state.

Sergei Khaikin: One has to comprehend what makes think so. Among them are students who grew up in Ichkeria and for whom sovereignty is a romantic slogan. There are people who insist on the economic independence of the republic. There are implacable separatists. But if we want to build a civil society we have to respect the opinion of the minority.

Question: What do you think of figures released by the Central Election Commission, according to which over 90% of the Chechen population voted for the Constitution?

Sergei Khaikin: I guess the figures are true to the fact, because those who did not wish to vote, did not turn out to vote. It was people who put trust in the signs of peace who came to vote. It is necessary that the federal authorities displayed a real political will to improve life in Chechnya.

Question: How far can one trust the results of the research? Do they reflect settled opinions?

Sergei Khaikin: If we look at the map of polls being done by the Public Opinion Foundation, for instance, there is a gap for Chechnya and the North Caucasus in general. I have nothing to compare our results with. When Shamil Basayev attacked Dagestan, no one asked what ordinary people thought of it. They said they knew anyway.

Question: What receives a favorable response from Chechens?

Sergei Khaikin: They all are proud of one anchorwoman on the NTV network. But they still point out: “Why is it emphasized all the time that she is a Chechen? You should say whether she is a good presenter or not!” Nonetheless, it is obvious that they are bursting with pride.

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