Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 29

Writing in the July 27 issue of the Washington Post, the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent, Susan Glasser, observed: “Kremlin officials now compare [the present Chechen war] to decades-old conflicts such as Northern Island…. Inside the Kremlin, according to interviews with numerous officials and political observers, there has been a clear shift in strategy away from proclamations of victory and toward preparing the Russian public for long-term bloodletting. ‘The historical parallel is Northern Island,’ Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the chief Kremlin spokesman on Chechnya, said in a recent interview.”

“The Kremlin’s new Northern Ireland parallel,” Glasser went on, “is meant to placate Western critics by comparing Russia’s behavior to that of European countries.” In fact, however, she emphasized, “these comparisons far understate the scope and brutality of the Chechen wars [of 1994-1996 and 1999-2001]. About 800 people have died in Spain’s Basque region in more than thirty years, and about 3,000 in Northern Ireland since 1972. In Chechnya, thousands have died in less than two years and as many as 400,000 have been left homeless. According to new government statistics that human rights workers say are too low, 3,400 Russian soldiers have died and more than 10,000 have been wounded; Chechen rebels claim that more than 40,000 civilians and 1,500 of their troops have died.” Glasser then cited the words of Oleg Orlov, leader of the Russian human rights organization Memorial: “They [the Putin regime] need to have some kind of explanation for why their repeated statements of victory turned out to be false–hence the comparisons to Northern Ireland. But this is not Northern Ireland; it’s much more horrible.”