–PUTIN DEFENDS HIS CHECHNYA POLICY
President Putin rejected criticism over Chechnya during a meeting in the Kremlin with foreign political scientists and analysts on September 5. “We are coming under fire for our policy in Chechnya,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. “Of course, we influence [the situation in Chechnya] and will continue doing so.” Putin added that the United States is influencing elections in Iraq and the situation in Afghanistan, while Chechnya is part of Russia. “It is our country, so how can we distance ourselves from it?” Putin said. “We influence [Chechnya], but in such a way that does not prevent the Chechen people from expressing their will.” Asked when Russia would be able to catch or kill Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev, Putin said: “I would like it to happen as soon as possible. Some people deserve to be punished.” Asked about ABC television’s broadcast of an interview with Basaev in July, Putin said: “Under the guise of demagogic rhetoric about freedom of the press, some media give the floor to blatant terrorists…. Some criminals and terrorists should be outlawed.”
–BASAEV PUTS A NEW SPIN ON BESLAN
Shamil Basaev said in a statement published by the separatist Kavkazcenter website that a failed Russian special services sting had allowed his militants a free passage into North Ossetia to conduct the Beslan school hostage seizure, Reuters reported on August 30. The rebel warlord said a special services agent had been sent undercover to the rebels to persuade them to plan an attack in Vladikavkaz, the North Ossetian capital, but the agent confessed to the rebels, who were then allowed to enter the region with ease, with security services believing they would be able to capture them as they headed for Vladikavkaz, Basaev said. But the rebels went instead to Beslan. “From August 31, they opened a way in for us … and we went along it to Beslan, ‘mixing up’ the time and target of the attack,” Basaev claimed. On August 30, the Associated Press acquired a videotape apparently showing Basaev preparing for the Beslan school raid. The footage, which was also broadcast on NTV television, showed several other fighters, including Abu Dzeit, a Kuwaiti national, suspected al-Qaeda liaison who was killed by security forces in February, and the alleged leader of the Beslan raid, known as the Colonel. On August 26, Kavkazcenter published a document announcing that Basaev had been appointed as the new first deputy prime minister in the Chechen separatist government.
–QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Dear mothers and relatives of all the innocents killed during the tragic events in Beslan, the majority of whom, unfortunately, were children: No one knows more than I do, mothers, the extent of your inconsolable grief…. I know in detail about your constant wanderings during the year from Beslan to Moscow in search of the truth about your terrible tragedy…. It has also fallen to my lot to endure the most difficult of ordeals. The most recent Russo-Chechen war has taken from me people dearest and closest to my heart: my mother (her fragile, ailing heart simply could not take all the horrors of this war), my husband, my beloved nephew—the list could go on. But against the background of someone else’s sorrow—the terrible tragedy of the Ossetian mothers – no less tragic appears the sorrow of the Chechen mother who during an artillery barrage of a peaceful village, lost four children all at once in a direct hit on an apartment house, while a fifth, a nursing infant, miraculously survived. Later, in order to commit at least something to the earth, the mother had to scrape off the remains of her children from the walls.” —From a letter written by Kusama Maskhadova, widow of Aslan Maskhadov, to the Beslan mothers, published by the Chechenpress news agency on September 6.