Vital Signs

Russia's Chechen Crisis

Russia's ill-fated decision to intervene in the Chechen civil war has precipitated a political crisis at least as heated, and far more bloody, than the 1993 presidential-parliamentary showdown. Consider the following; all the major "democratic" parties, including former prime minister and Yeltsin backer Yegor Gaidar's "Russia's Choice," have denounced the intervention and called for a halt to military operations, leaving only Vladimir Zhirinovsky and a few other ultranationalists backing the action; Grigory Yavlinsky, a leading proradical reform parliament deputy, has called for President Boris Yeltsin's resignation; Yeltsin's own human rights commissioner, Sergei Kovalyov, who spent three weeks in the besieged Chechen capital of Grozny, has bitterly denounced the intervention, citing the "huge number of civilian casualties— helpless invalids, elderly people, women —most of them ethnic Russians who had no place to go," thus undermining official claims of concern over civilian deaths as well as concern about the region's Russian population; a number of Russian general staff officers have denounced the intervention, and Russian news media accounts indicate growing dissension in the ranks of the ragged and infrequently paid army (a group of enlisted men bitterly told a Russian reporter of having had their first decent meal in some time while being held prisoner by the Chechens);...

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