Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya
By Lyoma Usmanov
STUNNING BLOW MURDERS
On the night of December 7th, 1998 a horrible tragedy shook the world. Unknown criminals killed three Britons: Peter Kennedy, Darren Hickey and Rudolf Petschi and a New Zealander, Stanley Shaw in the North Caucasus. Their severed heads were found the next day on a road near Assinovskaya village about 25 miles west of Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic. The four were captured by unknown armed men on October 3rd, just several days before they were to complete installing in Chechnya a satellite linked regional telephone system with a 300,000 user capacity.
The first commentaries in the Western press on why criminals would commit such a provocative crime can be summarized as follows: The Chechen authorities conducted an unsuccessful operation to free the hostages and the criminals (either to retaliate or out of desperation, or out of desire to challenge the helpless authorities) killed the foreign prisoners. This explanation is foolish. There is absolutely no logic in it.
First of all, as we know now, the criminals never were in any real danger. Second of all, even if there was such a danger, killing the hostages is even more irrational since the hostages could have been a living shield between the criminals and Chechen policemen. When criminals resort to such extreme measures, hostages are often used to negotiate conditions, and there is no reason to kill all the hostages at the same time, especially in such a manner. Unless, of course, it is assumed that the hostages were taken with the sole purpose of obtaining ransom - but from whom?
Considering the brutality and the possible goals of the criminals, another atrocity comes to mind, also committed in Chechnya and also against foreigners in December, 1996 after the end of the two-year long Chechen-Russian War. Then, as no one can forget, six workers of the International Red Cross were brutally murdered. And then too, no reasonable explanation for the crime was found. We should note though that Russian propaganda attributed it to fanatical "Islamic fundamentalists"- participants of the war that had just ended. There is no logic in this version of events, especially when we remember that the Red Cross was the only international organization during the war that saved the lives of many Chechen resistance fighters wounded on the battle field. So the Red Cross was, (and continues to be), held in great respect by the Chechen population and there is no conflict at all in the Chechen culture between the Cross and Crescent symbols.
The fate of another foreigner in Chechnya also remains shrouded in mystery. American Fred Cuny publicly expressed his sympathy for the Chechens. He came to Chechnya as a representative of the world renowned Soros Foundation to develop a large scale humanitarian aid program in Chechnya in March, 1995, at the beginning of the war. Please note the assessment of the events in Chechnya by this humanitarian who experienced firsthand, 30 wars in a quarter of a century: "This is the most terrible place I have ever been. There are no rules at all. It is a total war. Sarajevo, compared to Chechnya, will look like a Sunday stroll. In terms of horror, terror and unpredictability the war in Chechnya can be compared to no other war in the history." (Moscow News, #11, 03/17-24/96). Fred Cuny then disappeared and the Soros Foundation did not start any humanitarian programs in Chechnya.
Few international analysts have ever been to Chechnya so they do not appreciate the culture of the people. They tend to attribute all crimes in the region to Chechens, who are so "fanatical" that they commit crimes against their own interests. This opinion has been formed mostly because of the unprecedented practice of kidnapping, which began in Chechnya after the war ended. We should discuss this in a little more detail.
First of all, the question arises, how is kidnapping possible in a country whose people are long renowned for their hospitality. This tradition is one of the revered customs of the people. Expressing welcome to a guest is a complete ceremony with strict protocol in Chechnya. The tradition survives even after such a long and difficult war.
Never before in the history of warfare was seen a phenomenon that developed in Chechnya especially in the early stages of the war. Chechen warriors returned Russian POW's to their mothers without any conditions - let alone ransom! This even started a new Russian movement called "Soldiers' Mothers."
This was happening simultaneously in Chechnya's occupied territories as a system of Russian concentration camps called "filtration points" was functioning. Even according to official Russian statistics, "filtration more than 25,000 prisoners went through the camps". Most of them were Chechen civilians having nothing to do with the war and who were "kidnapped" from their homes or even off the streets. Almost all suffered torture and humiliation. Most of those able to escape, did so by paying ransom, which relatives had to raise. Even bodies of the deceased had to be "purchased" in order to bury them. To complete this picture let's remember the almost complete robbery and destruction of most Chechen villages by Russian soldiers. This inhumane treatment is captured in testimonies of witnesses published in newspapers, magazines, books and reports of human rights organizations. Let us note that despite the vast extent of the anti-human policies of Russia, Chechens did not retaliate with terror during this most difficult of wars. There was no talk about kidnapping at all.
Is it not very strange that the kidnapping phenomenon spread with amazing speed and scale just after the war ended - exactly when it seemed that evil had left this poor country forever and the dream of peace was in sight?
If we follow the Russian reasoning (as the West seems to have followed), it appears that all Chechens are beasts, and their "bestiality" attains the height of stupidity. They freed their enemies during the war. But those who come there during the time of peace as friends to help them - these Chechen "beasts" kidnap and behead!
Numerical analysis of factors connected with kidnappings in Chechnya since January, 1995 is revealing. The war against Chechnya was extensively documented and recorded. Two notable hostage incidents occurred during the war when hostages were taken by the Chechens army in Budennovsk, in July, 1995 and Kislar, in January, 1996. From the Chechen side these were open and clear protests to try to stop the war. While they proved useful to opposition propagandists, these events had nothing to do with criminal activity for ransom.
Apart from these and the Russian "filtration practices" during the war,numerical analysis shows that hostage taking is a mainly post war phenomenon.
First -the geography of the kidnappings: in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. There were no kidnappings in Kabardin-Balkaria or through the North Caucasus. We know that there may be even more foreigners and other potential targets in those areas than in the target areas. At the same time we know that if the criminals had purely monetary interests, it is very easy for them to move their "merchandise" to another region. There is another significant geographic detail. Many events connected with these kidnappings took place in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan. This town has some notable political distinctions. It is well known that before the war, this was where much of the opposition against Chechen statehood was concentrated. Its local traditions were entirely "civilized." There was not even a hint of religious extremism. It is possibly the only town in the occupied territory of Chechnya that Russians left intact during the war. It was never bombed or pillaged. There must be a very good reason for such a rare exception in Chechnya. After the war, suddenly, religious extremism sprang up in Urus-Martan and again events unfolded towards the destruction of Chechen statehood.
Second conclusion - apart from Budennovsk and Kislar as mentioned, hostage taking by Chechens during the war was virtually nonexistent.
Third - starting from the 22nd month of the war, there was a very distinctive growth in the pattern of this hostage "business".
What is the overall conclusion from these considerations? A powerful criminal syndicate exists in the North Caucasus from Dagestan to North Ossetia. Only an idiot or anti-Chechen propagandist can deny this. After the release of Vincent Cochetel, a French aid worker, the President of North Ossetia characterized the group as international. Mr. Cochetel said he was shuffled among ten hiding places during his 317-day ordeal and only received 15 minutes of light by candle or lantern. Logic suggests that the shuffling and the darkness was to hide him from law-abiding Chechen citizens who might discover the kidnappers! We think that this group consists entirely of Russian citizens and should therefore properly be named a "Russian organized crime syndicate".
Many international organizations were planning to commence large humanitarian aid programs for Chechnya to help the population that suffered as a result of the war. At this particular time, the worst atrocity in Red Cross history took place as Red Cross workers were killed while sleeping. This caused the respected international organization to leave Chechnya.
The first mentioning of kidnapping in modern times was in 1994 just before the war. There was as yet no actual kidnapping, but it had already been written in Russian propaganda and was published in great volume later during the war. Let's look, for example, at one of those anti-Chechen publications called "Criminal Regime. Chechnya 1991-1995", published by the police department of Russia. In this publication, probably for the first time, an attempt was made to portray Chechnya as a "state of slavery". One of the headings in this publication is even called "Slaves of the 20th Century". But there are so many ethnographic and even geographic mistakes in the carefully crafted "accounts of witnesses" (the writers are mistaking the Caucasus for Central Asia) that this falsification disappointed even Russian specialists. There is an attempt made in that book to thrust an opinion upon readers that Chechen characteristics are "brutality, sadism, fanaticism and fascism". Chechens are even accused of "making Russians drunk by giving them vodka" (pages 53, 62, 73). This next phrase is an example of the anti Chechen military theme: "The Russian people have run out of patience" (page 14) and "Who can stop these people?" (page 38)
We should also note three very similar "terrorist acts" simulated by the Russian Special Forces that involved Chechens and the hijacking of helicopters at the airport in Mineralnie Vodi , on May 27, June 30 and July 28, 1994. You can judge their anatomy by the newspaper "Izvestia" (08/27/94 and 05/24/95), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" (09/07/94), "Komsomolskaya pravda" (08/12/94) and book Unconquered Chechnya, by L. Usmanov, Moscow 1997 (pages 117-119)
And we should also remember that demonstration of the "blood-thirsty Chechens" prompted by broadcasting on Russian television on 07/31/94 about three severed heads. Later on 08/10/94, the St. Petersburg newspaper "Chas Pik" published its investigation of this anti-Chechen slander. In conclusion let's bring up words of Mikhail Barsukov, a member of the Russian government who said after the military defeat in Pervomaiskoye on 01/20/96, "A Chechen is only capable of killing. If he cannot kill, he robs; if he is not capable of doing that, he steals, and there is no another kind of Chechen"! (Moscow News #3, 1996) This is the Russian political view of Chechens!
The goal of Russian propaganda before and during the war can be expressed using the words of the Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Valery Tishkov: "Thanks to the press not only in Russia but also abroad, an image of "Chechen Mafia" has been created, which neutralized the sympathy towards Chechens that had formed internationally as a result of the war. If it was not for that image, the international support for Chechens would have been even more tangible. I also do not agree with the image of "Medelin cartel" or criminal zone that has been thrust upon people. This is a myth. The level of crime among Chechens is no higher than among Georgians or Russians in Moscow. At the same time Chechens are very successful in business". (Novoe Vremya. April 15, 1995)
Chechen people do not have and could not have had anything to do with kidnapping because it sharply contradicts their culture. Chechens were among the first in the Caucasus to renounce feudalism as far back as the 16th century. In comparison, the right of ownership of peasants was abolished in Russia only in 1861!
Traditions of equality have been developed among Chechens as a result of a long struggle against feudalism. The slave trade existed in the Caucasus and in Russia up until the end of the 19th century, but the traders of "live merchandise" preferred to stay far away from the territory of Chechnya.
There are historical legends in the Caucasus about Chechen traditions of equality and hospitality. This is even reflected in Russian classical literature.
During the battle on the Sunzha river in Chechnya on July 4, 1785, a 20-year old Count Bagration, fought bravely on the Russian side (he later became a famous general and hero in the Russian Army) but was wounded and captured. However, medical help was provided to him and to signify respect for his bravery, he was taken to the other side of the river and returned to the enemy without any conditions. (N. Dubrovin "The history of war and rule of Russia in Caucasus" 1888, page 577) This classic of Russian military history brings up another fact: "During a winter (1825), Grekov (Russian general) undertook several military expeditions to Chechnya to punish villages that took in runaway Kabardins. You would not have wished deadlier weather for Chechens... Besides the deep snow, the temperature was around 8-12 degrees (Celsius), and an ice sheet had formed, which covered all the trees and plants, which were the feed of last resort for the cattle. These extremes were enough to subdue any people but barely subdued even few Chechens. Their stubbornness is unlimited. In other words, no one saw Kabardins" (N. Dubrovin, "The History of the War and Rule of Russia in Caucasus", Volume VI, book 1, St. Petersburg, 1888. Page 527).
Chechen traditions of chivalry created problems for Russian military commanders in their attempt to spread among their soldiers the notion of a "low cultured enemy". But as Pokrovski informs us, the "soldiers had a different opinion and escaped to democratic Chechnya in droves. The question of extraditing these runaways was very touchy and spoiled the relationship between the Russian administration and Chechens". ("Diplomacy and Wars of Russia in XIXth century", Moscow, 1924 page 201)
At the same time, the kidnapping of peaceful civilians has long been one of the main Russian war methods in the Caucasus. For example, a well known Russian commander in the last century, A. Ermolov issued very strict orders to officers under his command: "Be careful not to leave without hostages; these peoples are barbaric and if spoiled by our weakness, will then conclude that they can avoid fulfilling our demands". ("Russia and Caucasus", St. Petersburg, 1995 page 25)
I, as a Chechen, know very well the culture, attitude and mentality of my people, and I insist that the shameful and antihuman practice of kidnapping has been artificially injected into Chechnya from the outside. It has been done with a purpose of isolating Chechnya from the rest of the world, to destabilize the internal political situation, so that international organizations would shy away. So that the process of international recognition of Chechnya's independence will be crippled. The main reason for this policy is Caspian Oil wealth. If Russia loses control over Chechnya then they, many Russian government officials think, will lose influence throughout the entire Caucasus.
There are not only historical and cultural arguments that support similar conclusions. There is enough very convincing circumstantial evidence that shows that Russia still uses old ways and antihuman methods in its politics.
On November 17, 1998 a sensational press conference in Moscow was given by several Russian officers from the special services. For two weeks thereafter, the number one television channel ran specials specifically showing that the leadership of the Federal Security Service issuing specific orders to conduct operations to murder businessmen and political figures and to kidnap people. The confessions did not specifically address the Chechen issues. No one in Moscow is interested in Chechen problems, but we can imagine their policy towards the Chechen population if they are issuing orders to even murder such a well-known person as Boris Berezovski, Executive Secretary of Newly-Independent States.
This policy has been implemented twice already. Once was right before the war, when the deputy director of FSK(the Federal Secret Service, formerly the KGB), Mr. Sevastyanov, miserably failed in the execution of his terrorist policy in Chechnya. The armed attack on Grozny that failed turned out to be the most devastating for him. That particular operation was framed as an attack by "Chechen opposition" on November 26, 1994. The second time Russia suffered a defeat not in a secret but in an open war. All the Chechen gangs involved in covert terrorist warfare before the war openly switched to the Russian side when the war began. Some of their commanders even received very high promotions within the Russian special services. For example, the leader of one of the gangs, R. Labazanov, was made a colonel, and another one, B.Gantamirov, was even made a general!
Of course, the Russian Special Forces have learned a great deal from the previous two stages of the anti-Chechen policy. Both about the tactics and the ethnography and especially geography. They will not make the old mistakes again. Let's remember the emotional statements of many high ranking Russian officials immediately after the military defeat in August, 1996 in retaliation for the loss. Their spy network was accidentally mentioned once by Stepashin himself as having as many as 700 people in Chechnya. We can imagine what their activities in Chechnya are!!! We already talked about their ways before. The whole world knows them without more clarification.
Accomplishing Russian revenge is made easier by the fact that first of all, the Chechen Republic and especially its infrastructure is destroyed by war. Secondly, the war brought a high degree of religious extremism to Chechnya after the war. This instrument is easy to pervert into a destructive policy, especially since Chechen fundamentalists, unlike in many Islamic countries, are almost completely illiterate. Thirdly, the young Chechen government consists almost entirely of war commanders; they have not yet realized that fighting an open battle is one thing. But building a State is very different - where not "muscle" but a high level of education and creativity for complicated political developments is needed especially against an insidious enemy.
Let's return to the recent murder of three Britons and a New Zealander who were helping Chechnya. It is clear that many in the West do not understand the motivation behind this political tragedy.
The war destroyed the former communications system. Even telephone poles were shot down. The president of Chechnya for example can receive information about events in the United States or England more readily than about a village in Chechnya. There are few phones in Chechnya and these are through the Moscow mobile phone system! This is in today's age of information. No other country in the world has such a bad situation. Let's add the fact that all the phone conversations in Chechnya are recorded and filtered by Russian FAPSI. This may be the reason why the criminals who kidnap people immediately know all about the intentions of the Chechen Security Forces!
It would be naive to think that there are people in Moscow prepared to let Chechnya out of their control. Even in small matters they try to create roadblocks to the development of Chechnya. Victims of this policy are not only Westerners but also ordinary people. Let's bring up a telling fact. Around the end of this summer (1998), the first Internet server was brought to Chechnya and we started actively using it to exchange confidential information, especially between the government and its foreign representatives. In the middle of October, unknown criminals sadistically murdered the technician in charge of that server. The Internet connection deteriorated so we still can not go back to the previous level of contacts using the Internet. Can you imagine what would happen if the Chechen Republic could obtain a 300,000 line telephone system, which could work through international communications satellites. This would be a major change!!!
The videotape that was made before the Britons and the New Zealander were murdered is of course a falsification. There is no doubt that Peter Kennedy says, "We have been recruited by the English intelligence service... We installed a satellite aerial so that all phone conversations in Chechen territory could be heard by German, English and Israeli special services and the CIA". This was all done under torture to disorient the Chitin leadership. First of all, it is obvious that when that tape was being made the fate of the victims had already been decided. Secondly, the people who put that whole thing together do not understand the government systems of the West, to say the least. Otherwise, they would not have lumped together the secret services of the US, UK, Germany and Israel. The last one may have been included to foster anti Semitic sentiments in Chechnya. Anti-Semitism has now become very popular in Russia. No Englishman would make such mistakes on the tape as Peter Kennedy did except to indicate that he was under duress.
It would be even more naive to conclude that any foreign secret services are currently active in Chechnya. This thought is regularly injected into Chechnya by ideologists from Moscow. Unfortunately, it is not true.
Otherwise foreign politicians would not have made so many ignorant mistakes in the Caucasus and especially in Chechnya. And at last, let us imagine that all the mentioned Western secret services decided to use the phone system for intelligence purposes. Why would they inform the engineers of the phone company about it. They are not all idiots. With the technology available to most people who needs to inform heads of telecommunication companies! It was a deliberate deception.
To summarize this murder, we say that the kidnapping was not for ransom but rather it was for political purposes. The purpose was to prevent completion of a modern communication system in Chechnya and coincidentally to damage the Chechen image in the West. Any ransom in the current framework of the Russian secret services is because of their poverty as a way of self-sufficiency for the intelligence network. They did the same thing on the eve of the war.
Knowing the typical behavior of the Russian intelligence services, it is easy to predict that the anti-Chechen propaganda will only increase. The airwaves will be filled with the most bizarre rumors and outrageous theories. Anything and everything will be done to strengthen the image of Chechens as uncivilized, brutal and blood-thirsty people and to increase suspicion of Chechens and divert it from Russia as far as involvement in this outrageous military crime over four foreign representatives is concerned.
The complete intelligence network scheme on location looks like this (in this case, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Caucasus) working closely with criminal gangs that provide information and training support. They also skillfully exploit Chechen fundamentalists, playing upon their illiteracy and dissatisfaction with the current leadership of Chechnya. Let us remember that last summer the special Russian commission under the leadership of Stepashin and later under the Ministry of Justice made a statement that the fundamentalist organizations of the North Caucasus are not extremist. Let us note that this statement was made not only despite the opinion of the local leadership, but also despite the opinion of Muslims themselves, expressed in religious ensembles at the highest levels!!! However, because of fundamentalist extremism, the Mufti of Dagestan lost his life and the Mufti of Chechnya escaped unharmed by a miracle in a similar attack.
General leadership and political cover-up is provided by the Federal center. This scheme is good because it allows not only controlling and using criminal gangs for political purposes but also any time when there is no longer need of them, they can be liquidated for example, as is happening in Dagestan.
One of the biggest difficulties for the Chechen leadership against such criminal groups is that they claim to be the followers of true Islam. The reality is visible in the signature of their actions.
In February, 1998 Chechen leadership arrested two people involved in kidnapping. They were questioned about who they were and why were they involved in this activity if it is a shame to a Chechen. They responded by saying that they are members of the Islamic organization Jamaat and they have a special Fetva (permission) for kidnapping. When the scheme of the actions is obvious, then a simple explanation is found for those strange things that went on during the release of hostages through ransom or magically without it. For example, why is it that only the members from the Federal Center always found a way to contact gangs so easily? And why are they so diligently keeping information about their contacts from the leadership of the Chechen government? The explanation that they need to be able to use the channel to free other hostages is designed for the uninformed general public and those naive Western politicians that still believe in the respectability of Russia.
Another important link in this chain is local misinformation. For example, journalists sometimes write that even regular retailers in the local market know the names of the kidnappers. But no one actually reveals the names of the criminals.
There is a massive distribution of propaganda in the West, mostly through ITAR-TASS. For example, the majority of uninformed citizens is convinced that Vincent Cochetel, (who was because of the war in Chechnya, representing the high commissioner of UN for the affairs of refugees) was kidnapped on Chechen territory by Chechens. The author of this article personally received several such letters from France.
In fact, Mr. Cochetel was kidnapped in Vladikavkas, a Russian city, 120 kilometers (72 miles) from Grozny. He was kidnapped, as it is obvious now, by a Russian criminal group, at least by Russian citizens, who have nothing to do with the citizens of Chechnya. The true goal of this kidnapping and the reason for such a relatively easy release of the representative of UN is very obvious. The goal was to frighten the UN as far away from Chechnya as possible and this task is accomplished. The reason for the release is the intervention of the President of France, who after the death of the three Britons and a New Zealander, expressed it by way of a very strong ultimatum.
The ransom, that was desired so much by criminals and agents of the Russian secret services, was not given. The situation was becoming too heated at the diplomatic level. Stepashin had to go extreme measures, liquidating the gangsters that he supported. The operation itself was not too difficult. The unsuspecting gangsters allowed their recent accomplices to come too close.
Continuing the topic of propaganda, let's note that the West is convinced that only Westerners and ethnic Russians are victims of kidnapping. There are almost 90 people held in North Caucasus. Of that number, maybe 10 are ethnic Russians, and the rest are ethnic Caucasians; the majority of them are Chechens. There is no doubt about who conducts the political leadership of these dirty politics. The name of this contemptible person is Sergei Stepashin, specialist on Chechen policy in Moscow. There is also a question of the involvement of Boris Berezovski, one of the heroes of hostage releases.
There is no doubt that Beresovski has no immediate connection with this dirty affair. He simply played a role of a "money bag", which was successfully "milked" by the secret services of Russia. The kidnapping of Russian representative, Valentin Vlasov, was not an imitation either. He simply became the victim of secret arrangements made by one of his enemies in Moscow. The most intriguing fact in his kidnapping is that Mr. Vlasov received a call about a kidnapping which was false and for the first time he traveled to the location without his bodyguards.
MORALS, PROPAGANDA, POLITICS
Chechens are accused of being naive out of their respect for the truth. On finding the heads of Peter Kennedy, Darren Hickey, Rudolf Petschi and Stanley Shaw this was immediately public knowledge in Chechnya and President Maskhadov took territorial responsibility. If Russian interests had been at risk there is no doubt that they would have been hidden and nobody would have found out that this horrible atrocity had been committed. They would have joined the list of missing persons as far as the rest of the world is concerned, like Fred Cuny.
Let's recall what was happened during the storming of the Chechen village Samashki by Russian soldiers in April, 1995. Let's look at the testimony of one of the witnesses: "I came to a school. Several women were tending to the dead bodies of several Chechen boys who were hanged by Russians with wire. The kids looked like first through third grade age. The children had run out of the school in horror. They were chased down by Russian soldiers and hung with wire. They were unrecognizable. The eyes popped out of their eye sockets and their faces were swollen. There were remains of burned bodies near by and the remains of some 30 other schoolchildren. According to witnesses, they were hung and then the corpses were burned with flame-throwers". (See "The Moscow News", #38, 1995)
What did the Russians do immediately after this massacre? They cordoned off the village for three days in order to wipe clean the evidence of their crime. That's it. And the world is silent. They say that there is not enough evidence. Even though there are hundreds of records and documents of the war crimes in Chechnya. Apparently the lives of Chechens are not that important to the world. We can assume that at least from the assessment of the war against Chechnya which was made by such a respected organization as "Amnesty International", in November, 1995 during a ceremony opening a new office in Moscow. In order to please Russian authorities, an official representative of Amnesty International characterized what was going on in Chechnya at the time as the "rudimentary indication of human right violations in a period of peace". (M. Deich's report, radio "Liberty", 11/27/95). This is the reason why Elena Bonner, the widow of a Andrei Sakharov, said that the war in Chechnya is a "historic crime of Russia and Western democracies". She added that "genocide cannot be considered an internal affair of Russia". (July 17, 1996 Radio "Liberty" ). Even in the question of humanitarian needs of the suffering population of Chechnya, an ethnically selective approach can be seen. For example in the press release of the International Red Cross from November 26, 1998, there is a particular concern expressed about the needs of the "Russian minority" in Chechnya. The desire to please Moscow inevitably comes through in this statement.
Regarding the murder of the four foreign engineers, from reading some British materials, sometimes I get a strange feeling. Some people in this situation don't feel pain, but rather see this as an opportunity to insult Chechens. Of one thing I am sure, that no other place in the world has felt as much pain, sadness and grief because of this tragedy as was felt in Chechnya itself.
The question is: why is the British Foreign Office is taking such an unclear position? The Chechen authorities were sincere in requesting help to investigate this crime. However the Foreign Office refused to cooperate, to not offend Moscow. The explanation was that the British administration could not afford to put any more people at risk! Looks like Scotland Yard is scared of criminals? Clearly, the people in the Foreign Office realize the political motive of the murders. So it is better for them to slow down the investigation instead of finding out the names of the criminals and the emotions (read as propaganda) to direct against Chechens.
It is true that propaganda is one of the most powerful tools of modern politics. Chechens are accustomed to the Russian methods of propaganda. It was hard to imagine that there were propagandist publications also in the West. The British newspaper "Independent" is one of them. When I read materials on the Chechen theme, I get a sense that I am reading "Pravda", a Soviet newspaper. No facts or discussions, just propaganda! Mr. Reeves in the British "Independent" on December 13, 1998 wrote an article called "Welcome to Hell. How did Chechnya-a country once applauded by the West for its spirit of independence-descend to such levels of chaos and barbarism?" This slander is enough to sue the gazette for insulting the national dignity. Chechnya is not a barbaric country and never will be. The Chechen people have a great ancient culture. This culture and country are being thoroughly destroyed by Russia with financial and political support from the West. The article is full of arrogance, snobbishness and belittling lies about Chechens. Mr. Reeves even tried to justify the last Russian aggression against Chechnya in 1994. He concluded that the Chechens themselves, by their behavior and tendency to crime, instigated the war. "Chechnya's lawlessness has roots that run deep in the history of its one million people". Mr. Reeves uses a cowardly propagandist trick. Instead of explaining to the readers that the lawlessness in Chechnya is linked to the destructive influence and military and political expansion of Russia, he submits to the readers that criminal behavior is genetically inherent to this one million people nation.
It is not hard to see where he gets these racist ideas. He is insulting not only Chechens; he is repeating Russian propaganda stories and calls the entire Caucasus "wild".
Apparently, he has no idea about the ancient culture of the Caucasus and of Chechnya in particular. If you are writing an article about a country you do not understand, read books and encyclopedias, do not simply repeat rumors. Mr. Reeves is accusing Chechens of exactly that; he claims that Chechens have spy paranoia. With cynicism he says that Fred Cuny was murdered by Chechens (that is also strange, because he is still listed as missing), because according to rumors in Chechnya he was from the CIA.
Mr. Reeves should think twice before writing such nonsense. First of all, as we mentioned above, why would Chechens kill their friend who came to help them? The conclusion of Mr. Reeves that Chechens are savages should be left on his conscience. Why do the Chechens need to spread rumors about Mr. Cuny's purported affiliation with the CIA? Let me tell you, Mr. Reeves, the CIA is not the enemy of Chechnya. The USA has never threatened the independence of Chechnya nor the lives of Chechens as the KGB and Russia have done historically. No Chechen intelligence service has ever opened and will not open in the future a department for spreading rumors as the one in Moscow that belongs to Russia. The "wild" Chechens never thought of doing it.
Mr. Reeves characterized the Chechens as "savages" at the end of his article using a cheap journalistic trick, as he states that one of his friends in Moscow called Chechens that. No name of the mysterious friend was given. So Mr. Reeves and the newspaper must take responsibility for those words (and other formulations in this purely Russian style article) in court.
One thing was surprising. The author had to admit that the Chechens earned respect by their dignified behavior during the difficult wartime. These moral credits, as the "Independent" writes, were lost after the assassination of the Red Cross workers. You would think that he could come to a natural conclusion: criminals do not act in a dignified manner during war and so disgustingly during peaceful time. Besides, this kind of extreme chaos and display is not beneficial for criminals. It is not in their best interests to pit themselves against the entire nation, unless they are there for a temporary assignment. They do have to maintain their own existence somehow, let alone feed their families.
Talking about the murders of the members of the Red Cross, Mr. Reeves mentions that there were five women among the murdered. It is impossible to imagine even the lowest of Chechen criminals who would participate in such a brutal and senseless killing of defenseless women. Of course, this is assuming that we are talking about a person who was raised by a Chechen mother.
A lot of people in the West reading those articles do not know that the criminals did not even take any valuables from their victims. In other words, this was a purely political murder. Even if we agree with rumors that were spread by Moscow and imagine that the killers were the "wild and fundamentalist extremists", why would they want to deprive themselves of the opportunity to be treated by these caring, kind people, if such need would arise. That is how everyone perceived the Red Cross members.
A lot of people might think that I am engaged in such a strong argument with the British newspaper in vain because their article is merely an emotional reaction to the murder of four representatives of a telecommunications company. Let's look at another article in the same newspaper (January 18, 1996) when during the recent war, the majority of the murdered were peaceful Chechens. The newspaper at that time published even an less analytical and more slanted article, entitled "Chechnya is not a matter for the West" in the editorial section. At that time, just as now the material was not based on solid research but seemed to just reflect the current rumor from the Kremlin. For example, in an attempt to justify the genocide of the Chechen people during World War II, the newspaper wrote that in 1943 Chechens had an uprising for the benefit of the German Regime. And according to the newspaper, when the Germans reached Grozny, the Russians reacted by expulsion of the Chechens from their motherland. Furthermore, the newspaper concluded, "history and rights are not on their side. The Chechen fantasy that the West should intervene on their behalf in this war, should be stopped". I do not think that the newspaper is capable of such "honest mistakes". It is a deliberate slander. Since, it is very easy to find out that German forces never were at the entrance to Grozny. Not Germans but Russians, themselves brought forces against Chechnya even before the First World War, during the WWII and after it.
In January, 1940, the leader of a Chechen uprising Kh. Israilov sent a letter to the world in which he stated that "It has been 20 years since Russia began a war to eliminate my people... Now I am convinced that the war is for the complete eradication of my people". The deportation of Chechens (and Ingushes) during cold February snowstorms was just one stage of the eradication of recalcitrant people. During the deportation from Chechnya, in just one town, "Khaibakh", more than 700 civilians were burned alive. In Urus-Martan, all the sick people from the local hospital were buried alive. All the residents of towns bordering Kazinoi Am Lake, Vedeno province, and Galanchozh Lake were drowned in those lakes. Almost 60% of Chechens and Ingushes died during the entire period of deportation. In the latest article of "Independent", the late president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudaev, is characterized as "despotically inclined". The honor of the national hero of Chechnya, whose name is now born by the capital of Chechnya, does not need our protection from attack by primitive propagandists.
Let's instead listen to Dzhokhar Dudaev himself. The Russian independent newspaper ("Nezavisimaya gazeta") published on July 15, an interview with him, which he gave that newspaper seven years ago. The heading are the words of General Dudaev himself: " I know that I am a victim...". The newspaper decided to give voice to the legendary president himself because they thought that his opinions would be very appropriate in connection with the current processes in and around Chechnya.
" Our path is a legitimate one in accordance with international law and democratic laws" said the Chechen President. But "there are attempts being made to force another path on us, a path not inherent to us, a path of terror, of shady dealings, sectarian religious affiliations. All of it done so that the progressive world and civilization would turn away from us. To create an image of some kind of monster which is only capable of drinking blood, steel, and is not capable of independence".
General Dudaev was asked: "Do you think a military intervention into your country from outside is possible?". "If Moscow will find a way to kill the very last Chechen, then Moscow will not stop for anything. They understand perfectly that the only way you can bring us to our knees is by the complete annihilation of our nation".
When asked, "Do you think Chechnya would stay as part of Russia?" He said "I will be the first to initiate the process of Chechnya becoming a part of Russia if there will be as much farm land per capita for Chechens as there is for any Russian, which is 16 hectares. It is only 0.2 hectares in Chechnya and that is figuring in mountainous areas. I will be the first to embrace Russia for all eternity if Russia will share with us the resources and the land."
He was asked, "What do you think about the establishment of a Muslim country?". He said "That is right now not an option for us...We need to build a constitutional state at the international level".
And answering to the question " How do you see further development of the situation?" he replied "I do not think it is going to get easier. There are things, which only the foolish dare to predict. I am not stupid to not understand the situation. I know that I am a victim. A victim because of the need, but also a conscious victim...".
WHAT GOALS IS RUSSIA PURSUING IN CHECHNYA ?
Now to wrap up our analysis let's show what kind of goals Russia pursues in Chechnya and what results they have achieved. First, complete international isolation. When people from the British foreign office say that Chechnya is in danger of international isolation, they exhibit a lack of knowledge about Chechnya. Chechnya has been in the state of international isolation for many years now. All the Chechen problems, including kidnapping are consequences of that isolation, and of the policy of treating all the misfortunes of the Chechen people as the internal affair of Russia. Second, now Russia has obtained a complete support from the West for their genocide in Chechnya. Reuters agency (December 13, 98) reported "Russian Foreign minister Igor Ivanov said that the West was changing its position on Chechnya as a result of lawlessness. In an interview on the TV6 television channel he said that: "if in the early stages of the conflict....there was much criticism directed at the Russian leadership, as the situation in Chechnya evolved, as Russia's leaders took active steps, there has been an increase in understanding of the real situation..."
Third, Moscow has achieved a significant level in developing a humanitarian catastrophe of the Chechen population. About 9 out of 10 Chechen families do not have enough to eat. A lot of them, have started to eat animal fodder to survive. There are 74,000 disabled in the nation, including 19,000 children, 2,000 blind, 1,500 deaf and mute and 12,000 orphans that lost parents in the war. Approximately, 35 % of Chechens lost their homes during the war, 85% are unemployed. 1,582 are still missing after the war. They are presumed to have been tortured and killed in the fascist style Russian concentration camps. Environmental catastrophe of the nation is unbelievable. It has practically enveloped the entire territory of the blockaded country. Air pollution exceeds the norms hundreds of times over. Chechen children are suffering the worst conditions. The infant mortality rate has reached 120 for every 1000 born!!!
The high child mortality is the result of malnutrition, unsanitary accommodations, and air and water pollution. According to the latest data that the author received from an "International group of parliamentarians on the problem of Chechnya", today every second new born does not live beyond the first month.
Pediatricians have been sounding the alarm for a long time. The environmental pollution exceeds the adaptive capacity of children. Children experience anemia and exhaustion. There are shortages of medicine, medical equipment, single use syringes, and sterile equipment. Sick and weak children are born, sometimes deformed. There are practically no pediatric or maternity facilities in Chechnya. They were all destroyed during the war. The availability of hospital beds for children is only 6.6% of the demand. In the last two years, the birth rate has fallen 2.5 times. There is despair, fear, horror in the eyes of Chechen children. Many of them have forgotten the way to school a long time ago. They do not have books with colored pictures or interesting toys.
The condition of the Chechen education system can be evaluated according the following sad results of the war. All four institutions of higher education of the republic were completely destroyed. Also, nine technical colleges, four technical schools, four research institutes, and more than half of the remaining schools. Scientific laboratories, lecture auditoriums, state archives and the national museum were all destroyed.
Chechen women are in a very difficult situation, especially pregnant ones. They do not have acceptable conditions. The main danger for them is infections of the digestive system. 80% percent of diagnoses of such diseases result in mortality. For example, hepatitis, leukemia. Approximately, 1 out of 5 pregnant women end up with a Cesarean section.
Tuberculosis exceeds all the acceptable norms. But there is no place and no one to treat it. There are a lot of ruins in place of local hospitals. Those that were not destroyed do not work either. For a long time, especially since the Red Cross left, no medicine nor equipment comes to Chechnya. Out of 1,000 hospital beds for people sick with tuberculosis, only 60 are functioning. Even according to even the most conservative estimates, there are more than 2,000 sources of tuberculosis. It is estimated that each person with tuberculosis, if not treated, can infect up to 40 people.
Russian politicians tell their Western counterparts that they are conducting a delicate political dialog with Chechnya and ask them not to interfere. Russian authorities mislead Western politicians and lie to Chechens at the same time. They have signed a number of documents on the highest inter-governmental levels as sovereign states, including the Peace Treaty, ending the war. But nothing of what they signed is actually implemented even according to their own admission. (It was not accidental that Winston Churchill said that the agreement signed with Russia is worth exactly as much as the paper that it was written on).
Regarding the entire policy of Russia towards Chechnya, one question that comes to the fore, what is the ultimate goal of Russian policy towards Chechnya? To simplify our search for the answer to this difficult question, let us change the emphasis and ask: is there on the state level in Russia a desire to see any improvement for the Chechen people?
The fact of the forced deportation of the Chechen people in February, 1944 can be brought up, when the nation lost more than half of its population (a percentage, greater than any other nation of the world during the WWII) or point out the recent war when a deliberate efforts were made to eliminate Chechens and their state. Many politicians in the West do not like when this is explained to them. Possibly because there is another issue of why twice within this century the West supported Russia in its policy towards Chechnya?
We will point out other data that will allow us to determine if there are even hypothetical reasons to assume that anyone in Russia has a concern about problems of Chechnya. According to research that was conducted by the author of this article, the following things came up. During the last six years, in USA only there are 35,000 people from Russia getting training, out of which about 10,000 are students in universities, and about 6,500 high school students. There is not a single Chechen among all of those people. And that is the same time while in the "Partnership for Freedom" program, within which all of this is happening, the main emphasis is made for education of people from the periphery. If Russia is proclaiming Chechnya to be their "own", is not all of this kind of strange? The demonstrated tactics of the military actions enhances this picture.
When Russia in 1994 started aggression against the Chechen State, their first bombs hit universities, schools, libraries and so forth. I remember, when the former speaker of the Russian parliament professor Ruslan Khasbulatov expressed his concern through the media, asking why they started destroying universities, why did they burn laboratories, archives with flame-throwers...? In other words, why deliberately destroy the educational system of Chechnya? The answer is obvious given the general political outlook of Russia. No one in Moscow wants development of the Chechen educational system. It is easier to squeeze illiterate people out of this world. Chechens will never be able to build a state without education, at least a modern one. But instead, there will be a bountiful development of "Islamic fundamentalism" and crime. This kind of "success" guarantees Western support of Russia in their anti-Chechen policies.
Now, another simple example: In November, the Russian government requested food assistance from the US. In their request they specified 40 regions that desperately need that food. Chechnya is not on that list!!! The author was able to determine, from Russian newspapers and from the statements of the Russian officials, that there is no problem of lack of food, the problem is in the "lack of money", in other words imperfection of the Russian state. Besides, the majority of the aid is to be used for the needs of the military and as feed for animals and also to replenish the budget.
Chechnya is not a part of Russia. But that is only Chechnya's opinion. Russia of course does not accept that. Of course, taking in consideration that ravaged, ruined, infected and polluted with deadly mines and shells that did not go off, Chechnya is in much more dire need of humanitarian aid than any other region of the former USSR.
Russia at least should have, if not included Chechnya in that list, but at least asked the Chechen government about its needs. This was not done. I am not even talking about the fact that this would have been an opportunity for Russians to find some leniency from Chechens. Of course, that is if they are even looking for that leniency.
The author, officially representing the Chechen Republic in the U.S., already pointed this out to those who should know about it. Now we have a hope that Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov will correct a "mistake" of his Vice-Premier G. Kulik. Especially, since the U.S. government has officially confirmed its intent to provide wide humanitarian aid to the struggling population of Chechnya. That is of course, if Russia will not create problems.
We need to note that the current Prime Minister of Russia is not Chernomyrdin nor Yeltsin and there is hope that he will change the dead end direction of Russian policy. He does not have a reason to not change anything since he is not a hostage of the previous criminal policy of Russia towards Chechnya. If we put aside expectations of Primakov, than the final opinion about Russia's policy towards Chechnya can be expressed only with the following formula:
Russia of course needs Chechnya but only without the Chechen population!!!
The recent catastrophic war has been followed by a long continuing political, economic and transport blockade, with complete disregard by Russia for the terms of all agreements they signed on the highest levels and is playing games with criminals in the North Caucasus. All this has only one explanation - it is a deliberate continuing policy of genocide of the Chechen people. The ultimate goal of Russia is the physical destruction of the Chechen people and its habitat.