Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 165

Meanwhile, on September 7, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo held a telephone conversation with U.S. FBI Director Louis Freeh, during which Rushailo claimed that the intellectual motivator and main financier of the rebel forces in Dagestan is Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. Freeh responded sympathetically, promising to work on destroying Internet sites used to spread false information about the situation in Dagestan. It is noteworthy that the same day, Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akaev stated that the events in Dagestan and Kyrgyzstan were linked: The guerrillas operating in both places, he claimed are being financed by bin Laden and other Islamic extremists (NTV, ORT, September 8; see the Monitor, September 7).

Rushailo’s demarche cannot be considered sensational, given that reports that bin Laden is active in both Central Asia and the North Caucasus have appeared periodically in the Russian press. It is possible, however, that in blaming bin Laden, Rushailo was simply trying to justify the Kremlin’s helplessness in the Dagestan conflict. It should be noted that during the Chechen conflict of 1994-1996, the Chechen fighters received excellent weaponry, but not from Islamic radicals in the Middle East. As Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev, one of the Chechen mafia’s leaders in Moscow, told the Monitor’s correspondent a year and a half ago, during the war in Chechnya all Chechen businessmen in Russia paid “tribute”–in the form of weapons, mostly from the Russian forces themselves (see Prism, December 5, 1997). The assertions of Nukhaev, who was involved in materially supporting the Chechen rebels, looks accurate, given that Russian television channels have shown clips of Russian soldiers selling weapons to Chechen fighters.