On April 3, the U.S.-supported Radio Liberty began broadcasting to Russia in the Chechen language. The decision to commence Chechen broadcasting, pushed through by Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, had been adopted last year by the U.S. Congress. “Inhabitants of the North Caucasus,” the online daily Gazeta.ru noted, “will be able to hear [the broadcasts] on short wave. First there will be the news in Russian, then 15 minutes of reportage in Avar, then 15 minutes in Chechen, and in conclusion 15 minutes in Cherkess” (Gazeta.ru, April 3). On April 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow summoned a U.S. diplomat to receive a protest over the launching of the Chechen-language programs. “The launching of propaganda broadcasts in the region, including Chechnya, where active steps are being taken to combat extremism and fanaticism under an antiterrorist operation,” the Foreign Ministry cautioned, “can only make it harder for federal forces to stabilize the situation.” And it added: “The move [by the United States] is in line neither with the joint antiterrorist campaign nor with the spirit of partnership being formed between Russia and the United States” (Agence France Presse, April 2).
Stanislav Il’yasov, the pro-Moscow prime minister of Chechnya, warned that if Radio Liberty provided nonobjective information concerning events in Chechnya, then “We will jam it” (Kavkaz.strana.ru, April 3). In similar fashion, sources in the Russian Ministry of Defense told Strana.ru, “If Radio Liberty provides false or dangerous information concerning the situation in the region, then its programs will be jammed” (Strana.ru, April 4). It was reported, further, that the Committee for International Affairs of the State Duma has begun to prepare an appeal from the Duma to the Russian government requesting that it “revoke the license of Radio Liberty to broadcast over the entire territory of Russia” (Strana.ru, April 5). Chechen refugees living in the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia, for their part, were said by Reuters to be highly enthusiastic over the new broadcasts: “We waited for these broadcasts like children wait for the lights on the Christmas tree to go on,” one refugee was quoted as saying (Reuters, April 4).