Interview with Malik Saidullayev
Date: October 20, 2001
Malik Saidullayev is a chairman of Board of Directors of Milan company that makes electronic systems using piezzo elements. Also, an owner of the most popular in Russia TV lottery " The Russian Lotto" More than two years ago, he became a chairman of the State Council of Chechen Republic, a body that was collaborating with the Russian government. President Putin has sent him thanks for "big contribution in shaping the Russian economy"
AND THE WAR WILL GO ON
Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich: Since the tragedy of September 11th, president Putin repeats to the whole word that Islamic terrorists and Chechen fighters that's practically the same people. Chechens are imputed with planting bombs on buses, in subway, blowing up apartaments in Moscow and other cities in September of 1999, and finally with the attack on Dagestan. Exactly this action - called as terrorist one - caused the Russian retaliation, which has been going on in Chechnya already for more than two years. Is Chechen terrorism a fact or it is not?
Malik Saidullayev: Chechen terrorism doesn't exist. First of all, it's not needed, doesn't solve anything, so to resort to it would be illogical; secondly - it's incompatible with our mentality; thirdly - with the absolute majority of terrorists acts imputed on us, any participation of Chechens in them hasn't been proved. For what Chechens, for example, would have to blow up apartaments? To bring on themselves even more persecution? It's not enough that the first war (1994-1996) made from them wandering around Russia beggars; that by planting drugs or gun on a Chechen to justify lawlessness, he can be arrested; that with impunity he can be killed, that there's no school, no hospital for him? Is that not enough misery?
Chechens suppose to be terrorists out of revenge? Why precisely in September of 1999, three years after the ending of that war ? And why against common people? What's a logic in a terrorist act in which no reason is known, in which no conditions are layed down and no dates are set to be fulfilled by an enemy?
And our mentality... Informations are spreading around us very quickly. To hide something serious inside a little community is impossible. To catch a perpetrator would be pretty easy. If somewhere Chechens were guilty without a doubt, somehow they were found. Against a "Chechen trace" speaks also our religion and customs. A child till 13 years of age is considered an angel. A normal Chechen won't raise hand on it. Even blood vengeance excludes killing women, children, elders.
In genuine Koran, written in Arabic, there's nothing about revenge, about killing infidels. Almost all translations in Russian have skewed the original, every publisher in it's own interest put in it some contents that were convenient for it. Those kind of falsified Koran texts were spread en masse in Chechnya in 1998 and 1999, when people trained in Saudi Arabia showed up there.
And the facts: All trials of alleged perpetrators are being conducted behind the barb wire, in penal colonies, cut off from impartial persons and even from the media. If those cases were "clean", if before the court were to appear the real guilty ones, show trials would be made from them, known to the whole world.
Q: Children, angels, women. But, Basayev in 1995 attacked a hospital in Budennovsk.
A: Basayev - although a Chechen - that's bad luck of Chechnya. This attack that's undoubtedly the terrorist act, decisively deserved to be condemned, although having its own historical logic and its goal. First, there had been Russian bombs over Chechnya and later this attack on the hospital. The goal had been achieved: suspention of hostilities had had been proclaimed for some time. But, I repeat one more time, I condemn it. The whole nation musn't be called bandits and terrorists. Otherwise, this also can be said about Russian terrorism.
Q: For example?
A: Conduct of many Russian generals in Chechnya who are murdering the whole population of villages, executions without trial and investigation, and what's worst - without a reason. How to call those famous "zachistki's" - breaking into houses in the morning, beating up and raping women, tormenting children, abducting and torturing men - where even it can't be alleged that those are possibly fighters; kidnapping men for ransom, or - simply- to beat up and kill, as it had happened to my three associates?. It's needed only to be recalled what general Shamanov was doing in Chechnya.
Chechens aren't fighting in the name of religion, Allah, Basayev, Maskhadov. From the first beginning of wars with Russia, they fight because they have to defend themselves. They don't have any other choice. Maybe among Chechen fighters are mercenaries trained along with bin Laden. But, if the war hasn't been forced on Chechnya, there would be no mercenaries there.
Q: A month ago, Novaya Gazeta published memoires of the former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko and historian Vitaly Felshtinsky who are proving that some acts attributed to Chechens - for ex. explosions in buses, trolleybuses, in subway - that's a work of structures which don't have anything to do with them. There are known names or alliases of perpetators, by the way, Russians: Lazovsky, Izmailov, Fiodorov. Similarily with blowing up apartments. The most important - according to the authors - evidence pointing to on perpetrators is the capture of FSB agents during planting by them of some sacks with explosives in Ryazan's apartment house, just after explosions in Moscow. The whole thing was exposed because of vigilance of some residents who lived in this apartment house and that the Ryazan's FSB unit didn't get informed about this action by their collegues from Moscow.
Litvinenko and Felshtinsky are also citing the English newspaper The Independent, which quoted a statement of FSB agent, who was captured by the Chechens. This agent himself had not been involved in planting explosives in Moscow's apartments, but was ready to divulge names of FSB and GRU agents who supposedly were doing this. What do you think about that?
A: They have their own evidence, I have my own. In 1999, when my kidnapped brother had been freed, I was enjoing a huge popularity in Chechnya. The whole nation would stand up with me in fight against bands of Shamil Basayev, Arbi Barayev or Akhmadov's brothers. It was them, who were mainly involved in kidnapping.
Q: The Akhmadov's brothers are remembered also by the Polish women kidnapped in Dagestan, just before start of the new war. Drs. Ewa Marchwinska-Wyrwal and Zofia Fisher-Malanowska were kept in basements of the town of Urus-Martan. In Nazran, I met a girl, who was with them there. She told me, who was coming to the Akhmadovs. I've written in one of our newspapers, what's already had been known in Moscow, that kidnappers were connected with some authorities who were close to the Kremlin.
A: And I asked for a meeting at the high level, to present my proposals. It was July of 1999. A residence of big businessmen and owner of the media Boris Berezovsky. A long, white table. Across me, a representation from the Kremlin - six persons. I say: I can finish those kidnappers off. Your money, your weapons, I don't need that, only your warranty, that you won't call me a bandit. Berezovsky says: "Basayev and Udugov that's our friends. We have with them different agreements. For example, not even one paper addressed from Maskhadov to the president of Russia won't pass without my knowledge. This agreement has been being kept. And anyone, who will go against Basayev, will be finished. Clear?." Clear. When Basayev was needed in Abkhazia to fight against Georgia and to pacify president Shevardnadze, he was there. When he was needed in Baku to pacify president Alliyev, he was there. He was needed in Dagestan to provoke war - he is there too.
Q: So, you think that the attack on Dagestan wasn't a terrorist act? The war which it provoked, was named - antiterrorist operation.
A: That was an act of banditry, not the act of terror. Banditry of orthodox Islamists - Wahhabis - piloted by the Federal forces. Basayev and Khattab without any obstacles went through Russian checkpoints and their safe withdrawal was guarded by a Russian helicopter.
Q: From where Wahhabis had came to Chechnya? I didn't see them there in 1996 nor in 1997, although I had stayed in Grozny for a pretty long time.
A: Chechnya after that war it was a country left alone with mined fields, bombed industry, destroyed schools, surrounded by economical blockade. Money, from Russia's budget that supposed to go for the reconstruction of the republic was disappearing between Moscow and Grozny. There's was no jobs, young people - yesterday fighters - didn't have anything to do, and then this plague was introduced in Chechnya. Chechens hate Wahhabis, because they force on us religious fanaticism and desecrate our traditions... Chechnya that's a secular society. Europeized Islam that separates religion from the state. Our women wear fur not burqas. But, Wahhabis had a lot of money and ideology, they were able to lure a part of the youth. So, number of fanatics was growing.
Q: Against Wahhabis stepped out first mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, today's representative of the Kremlin in Chechnya.
A: I've heard many times that he's done this because they hadn't split with him their takings from the drug trade. Chechens also say, that Kadyrov's nephews were involved in kidnapping.
Q: A felon moved by Moscow, directly from prison to the Chechen authority that's the former mayor of Grozny - Bislan Gantamirov. Why does the Kremlin rely on those type of people. And a government, in which you supposed to be its chairman, finally has never came into existence?.
A: The whole truth about Chechnya has to be searched in some files, which have those stamps on them: "STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL". In the Chechen conflict the same groups are working, elements of military and political structures. The same generals and politicians as in the first war. These are the same people who drink vodka together, split money and do everything that this war would never end.
Q: During two years of this "anti-terrorist operation" around ten thousand of Russian soldiers have perished, roughly a half of young Chechen men have been killed, in filtration camps they are torturing people, and by no means it's possible to catch Basayev and his associate - Khattab...
A: A video cassette exists, on which the Chechen parliament reproaches Basayev for the attack on Dagestan that he's got from Boris Berezovsky millions of dollars as bribe. On that, Basayev answers: "I didn't get a bribe, but a gift from a friend."
Q: Have not Chechens, when Dzhohar Dudayev came to power, terrorized Russians who used to live in Grozny?
A: The majority of them has fled not because of fear of us, but because of Russian tanks and bombs. Now it's easy to mix reasons with results and call it everything as terror. Let's recall that till 1991, Chechnya was probably the most peacefull region of the Soviet Union. And Dudayev also didn't fall from the sky. Did Chechnya know general Dudayev earlier? No, it didn't. And suddenly he showed up with a slogan of state's independence, about which a very few had thought then. And what does it mean "showed up"? One day, chairman of the Supreme Soviet (Soviet Union's parliament) Ruslan Khasbulatov invited him to his place and then delegated him to Chechnya, where he had to remove the first secretary of communist party Doku Zavgayev. There's evidence on that. Now it's being forgotten that Dudayev was a Russian general, who was commanding the Strategic Air Forces and flew airplanes equipped with atomic warheads. This type of person is being prepared by all kinds of special services, so he also is a collaborator of these services.
Dudayev - who didn't even know well customs of his nation - was put at the head of the state for a short time. After that, the power supposed to be passed into differents hands. But, Dudayev had changed himself and refused obedience. Khasbulatov and the general of Interior Ministry, Aslanbek Aslakhanov turned to president Yeltsin with an appeal that he should arm Chechen opposition and send tanks into Grozny. Yeltsin was also pressed from different side. He let to get convinced.
Q: During the fall of 1994, Dudayev who wanted to avoid war, tried to come to an understanding with Yeltsin to no avail. Persons, who I was asking why this failed, mostly were giving me evasive answers. Litvinenko and Felshtinsky maintain that the chief of president's security service - Alexander Korzhakov and the chief of security service - Barsukov and the first vicepremier - Oleg Soskovets since 1992 for each contact with Yeltsin demanded from Dudayev payout in millions of dollars. In 1994 those sums were so big that Dudayev refused to pay and tried to get to the president using different channels. The start of the war that was one possibility to not allow for that.
A: Dudayev didn't want war. He was a Russian general, who had fought in Afghanistan once. If we would call him a bandit, extremist, terrorist that means this banditry, extremism and terrorism Russia had prepared itself.
Q: Who has sent Khattab to Chechnya? Doesn't he have anything to do with international terrorism?
A: If Chechnya hadn't been attacked in 1994, Khattab probably might not showed up a few years later there. Islamic extremists had taken keen interest in the first war in Chechnya. Khattab that's an excellently trained fighter, and behind him there is lot of money.
Q: What money: Saudis? American?
A: I think that both. The best armed, the best equipped group of fighters that's the Khattab's group. Chechnya is a geopolitical sphere of interested not only for Russia. For other states and powerfull ones it's too. No one of them thinks about people, the Chechen nation, because in Chechnya there's more crude oil than in Kuwait...
Q: You've hung Putin's portrait in your office, you've been collaborating with Russia's government. That can surprise...
A: I don't have to lick anybody's boots. Earlier, I didn't hang up any portraits of presidents. I've decided to hang up Putin's portrait after meeting with him, still when he was a premier then. I liked him as a man with a common sense. I know that the president wants to finish this war in Chechnya as soon as possible.
Q: Who is preventing him to do that? People from the military?
A: That's too. But, that's only a machine that has been turned on, only hands...
Q: What about its head?
A: There are people from this old team, from Berezovsky's team, who don't want the ending of war.
Q: And they represent so much power which can impede the president??!!
A: The president that's also a human being. That's not so simple. One world of president doesn't decide about everything here. When I was in Chechnya, I arranged a meeting with fighters in the Nozhai-Yurt region that without a fight they will surrender this region to Russian control. Very high placed official told me then: we don't want that villages will be surrendering without a fight, Chechens have to fight... So, someone in the high places wants this war to go on. And the real information relating to Chechnya is not reaching the president. They're not giving the premier of the republic - Stanislav Ilyasov admittance to the president.
Q: What do Chechens want now? Independence?
A: They care about words the least. They want that nobody is going to torture them, to rob, to humiliate. These people are stripped from all of their rights now. So, they want that the rights of Russian Federation would also apply to Chechens.
Q: So, would they agree on talks and the staying of the Russian military in Chechnya?
A: Yes, if the military would act according to the law.
Q: Is that possible?
A: I'm afraid that Chechnya is going to suffer for a long time yet?
Krystyna Kurchab-Redlich talked to Malik Saidullayev in Moscow