Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 164

On September 7, NTV television showed clips from a horrifying videocassette of Chechens committing atrocities against families being held hostage in Chechnya. The clips showed Chechen bandits chopping off the heads of hostages and forcing others to hold out their fingers, which the bandits then shot with pistols. The videocassette also showed the bandits tearing out clumps of hair of two small girls who appeared to be younger than five years old, whose relatives the bandits had robbed. As these clips were being shown, the NTV commentator said that from the point of view of the Chechen Islamists it is not a sin to kill unbelievers (NTV, September 7).

Following such an unprecedented broadcast, there is practically no doubt that Russians are being prepared for war with Chechnya. Prior to the military campaign in Chechnya in 1994, Russian mass media also began to spread reports on the bestial behavior of the Chechen mafia and the persecution of the ethnic Russians in Chechnya. The current propaganda campaign, however, dwarfs the previous one. The same day that NTV showed the sensational clips, a meeting of the Russian Security Council took place in the Kremlin. Contrary to the original plans, President Boris Yeltsin presided over the meeting. Yesterday morning, Yeltsin had a rather long meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the situation in the North Caucasus. Putin afterwards stated that Chechnya was practically carrying out an open war against Moscow and that it was now necessary for Moscow to rid itself of its guilt complex toward the Chechens. The prime minister said that the energy expended to reach an accord with the Chechen Republic based on the Khasavyurt agreements (which ended the war in Chechnya) and other ones subsequently signed had yielded no results because the current Chechen leadership “does not control the situation in the republic.”

The Kremlin is now said to be trying to copy the Israeli strategy in southern Lebanon, where Tel Aviv created a security zone and Israeli aircraft respond to every terrorist act by mercilessly bombing terrorist bases. Russia, it is suggested, has the right to act this way in relation to the Chechen guerrillas both from the moral and the legal point of view. In the present circumstances, however, the strategy will backfire. Retaliatory strikes are effective when intelligence is gathered in a way better than the Russian power structures can brag about and when pilots at least occasionally hit their targets–which has not been demonstrated in Dagestan. Finally, it is necessary to protect such a security zone. But Moscow is currently unable to handle even its own border properly (NTV, Itogi, September 7).