The Chechen separatist movement has denounced the killing of Aleksandr Litvinenko, the former Federal Security Service (FSB) lieutenant colonel who accused his erstwhile employers of blowing up apartment buildings in Moscow and other Russian cities in 1999 in order to create a pretext for the second Russian military intervention in Chechnya. Litvinenko died in London on November 23 after being poisoned with what turned out to be a highly radioactive substance – polonium 210 (Chechnya Weekly, November 16 and 22; Eurasia Daily Monitor, November 27 and 29).
In a statement published by the separatist Chechenpress news agency on November 25, the administration of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) President Dokku Umarov declared that it was “grieved and indignant” to hear about the death of Litvinenko, whom it praised as a writer, human rights activist and “persistent advocate of truth and justice.” Kremlin “criminals” had “stabbed him in the back and treacherously poisoned him,” the ChRI administration wrote, adding that Litvinenko was the latest in a line of victims of “Kremlin killers” that included State Duma deputies Sergei Yushenkov (shot to death in Moscow in April 2003) and Yuri Shchekochikhin (died in July 2003 of a mysterious illness believed to have been induced by poisoning), former ChRI president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (killed when his car was blown up in Doha, Qatar, in February 2004) and the journalist Anna Politkovskaya (shot to death in Moscow on October 7).
“Now Aleksandr Litvinenko – an honest and courageous man who uncompromisingly exposed all the crimes and provocations of the Kremlin fascist regime – has been added to this list,” the ChRI presidential administration stated. “We regard as especially important the convincing proof and evidence of the Russian special services’ direct participation in the bombings of the residential buildings in Russian cities in the fall of 1999 collected by Aleksandr Litvinenko in his book, ‘The FSB Blows Up Russia.’ Thanks to that book and other publications by Aleksandr Litvinenko, Putin and his accomplices will never wash their hands of the blood of the hundreds of Russian civilians that was spilled in order to find a reason to unleash a new war and new genocide in Chechnya. Aleksandr Litvinenko presented in his book an accurate account of the crimes of Putin’s killers, who carried out the cold-blooded extermination of hundreds of Russian citizens so that they would have a pretext for the destruction of hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.”
The ChRI presidential administration claimed that Litvinenko converted to Islam shortly before he was poisoned and said it was praying to God to confer the status of a shahid, or martyr, on him. It also extended condolences to Litvinenko’s family, relatives and friends.
In a statement carried by Chechenpress on November 22, one day before Litvinenko died, the London-based ChRI foreign minister, Akhmed Zakaev, said the attempt to kill Litvinenko showed that “the open cruelty of the Russian government has no limits” and that “the tactics of terror used in Chechnya by the Kremlin have been fully transferred onto London’s streets.” He called for an independent investigation of Litvinenko’s poisoning.
BBC Monitoring on November 28 cited a statement by the family of Aslan Maskhadov, the late Chechen president and separatist leader, calling on the rebel leadership to award Litvinenko the ChRI’s “top honor” for his services to the Chechen people. Chechens will always remember Litvinenko as “a hero, a fighter for freedom and justice,” the statement read. “Our brother Aleksandr – a true son and patriot of his motherland, as well as of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria – is gone,” Maskhadov’s family said in the statement.
Chechen rebel envoy Akhyad Idigov, the chairman of the committee for foreign relations of the ChRI parliament, who currently lives in France, said Litvinenko was “undoubtedly” a victim of Russia’s security agencies. “A lot of politicians around the globe agree with this [statement] and many people in the Russian Federation are guessing that the incumbent Russian government is behind this bloody affair,” he said. According to BBC Monitoring, a Chechenpress report written by Zelimkhan Khadzhiev drew parallels between the deaths of Litvinenko, Lecha Islamov, cousin of Chechen rebel commander Ruslan Gelaev, who died in a Russian prison in 2004, and Yuri Shchekochikhin. “All three cases of poisoning – of Islamov, Shchekochikhin and Litvinenko – are united not only by the clinical picture, which is identical even in terms of the details, but also by the fact that the traces of the poisoners clearly point to one address: Moscow, Lubyanka [FSB headquarters],” Khadzhiev wrote.
In an interview published by Chechenpress on November 28, Mayrbek Taramov, head of the Chechen Human Rights Center, said Litvinenko was killed because he was “the most active political opponent of Putin abroad.” Taramov also said that while the “Soviet-Bolshevik authorities controlled their punitive bodies,” the “punishers” of today have become “uncontrolled.” He added: “This means that a gang of murders, bandits and terrorists…has occupied the highest rung of power in Russia. The latest state terrorists have moved in on the whole of submissive Russia, which occupies one-sixth of the earth with all of its endless riches. This is a monstrous force that the whole civilized world should fear.”