Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 30

Both Andrei Babitsky’s interview with Basaev and the fact that a leading American television network broadcast excerpts of it were widely denounced in Russia and elsewhere. Perhaps the most powerful denunciation came from Sussana Dudieva, head of the Committee of Beslan Mothers and the mother of a 12-year-old boy who died in the siege. “My name is Sussana Dudieva,” she said in remarks directed to the Basaev broadcast on NTV on July 29. “You, scoundrel, killed my child and killed the children of women who are now miserable and crushed. We have the strength fight you. Scumbag! We will find you and you will answer to us. To me personally!”

Along with the Basaev interview excerpts, “Nightline” on July 28 also read a statement by Russia’s embassy in Washington accusing ABC News of “an outright defiance of every standard of responsible journalism, as well as basic human values” by providing a forum to “one of Al-Qaeda’s zealots” responsible for “slaughtering innocent victims,” including “the cold-blooded killing of hundreds of children” in Beslan. On August 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Russia would not renew the accreditations of journalists working for ABC once they expire. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had already declared ABC “persona non grata” at his ministry. According to RIA Novosti, the Foreign Ministry statement also stressed that Andrei Babitsky, who is a staff correspondent with Radio Liberty, “interviewed the terrorist in violation of Russian legislation without being duly authorized.” The ministry added that the “circumstances of the arrangement of the interview still need to be clarified with the employer.” On July 29, Dmitry Kozak, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, said Babitsky should be prosecuted for failing to inform the authorities of Basaev’s whereabouts.

On July 29, Chechen President Alu Alkhanov accused ABC of “promoting terrorism,” Interfax reported. The following day, Ramzan Kadyrov denied Basaev was in Chechnya, claiming that he left the republic last year “after carrying out an operation Ingushetia” – an apparent reference to last June’s raids on law-enforcement installations in Nazran and elsewhere – and “hasn’t been doing anything of late.” As for ABC’s broadcast, Kadyrov said: “I am really surprised. It’s clear now whose man Basaev is. He used to be thought of in America as a Chechen terrorist, but now it is clear he is an American man. It will be much easier and more comfortable for us now. We know with whom we are fighting. Both Bin Laden and Basaev are American men.”