Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 39

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that his ministry would officially request that London take measures in connection with Akhmed Zakaev’s statements on the events in Kabardino-Balkaria, MosNews reported on October 17.

Zakaev, the London-based Chechen separatist envoy who was recently appointed a deputy prime minister in the rebel government, was quoted by Reuters on October 13, the day of the Nalchik raid, as saying that the attack was “a legitimate military operation” covered by the Geneva Convention and warning that there would be more such attacks. Lavrov said Zakaev’s comments went “beyond all limits of law and morals” and violated two United Nations Security Council resolutions. “It’s clear that Mr. Zakaev is in gross violation of recent U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted on an initiative from Great Britain and actively supported by the Russian Federation, which resolved that incitement to terrorism must be banned by all states, outlawed,” Lavrov told Rossia state television on October 14. “States, civil society in all countries and the media were warned that providing a platform for incitement to terrorism is also banned.”

The following day, October 15, the separatist Chechenpress website posted a response from Zakaev to Lavrov’s comments. “The fact of the matter is that the action of the fighters of the Caucasian Front in Nalchik was a legitimate military operation within the framework of an armed conflict,” Zakaev said. “The legal aspects of this action should be considered in the context of the Geneva Convention, and Mr. Lavrov’s anti-terrorist rhetoric here is, to put it mildly, misplaced. In connection with minister Lavrov’s address to the government and references to British justice, I would like to remind him of the verdict of the British judge in the case of the ‘The Russian Federation against Akhmed Zakaev’ of 13 November 2003, which said: ‘The events in Chechnya are in legal terms an internal armed conflict, in relation to which the Geneva Convention may be applied. According to the Geneva Convention, the destruction of an enemy in wartime is not a crime.'”

Zakaev added that “it is common knowledge that these Russian power-wielding structures (the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service and the Defense Ministry) have for over ten years been engaged in mass murder, abduction, the taking of hostages, torture and the extra-judiciary execution of innocent citizens not only in Chechnya, but in all the republics of the North Caucasus. What is more, they have been carrying out reprisals and punitive actions for ethnic and religious reasons. What happened in Nalchik was a perfectly appropriate response by the Caucasian fighters against these punitive forces who have abandoned all human morals. I would like to remind all the parties concerned that the Chechen leadership has more than once appealed to the Kremlin, which has become hostage to its own propaganda and anti-popular policy in the Caucasus, to reach a peaceful settlement to the Russian-Chechen conflict. However, the Kremlin, by stubbornly ignoring all the Chechen side’s peace initiatives, and reluctant to end its years of bloodshed, resorted to the treacherous murder of the lawfully elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Aslan Maskhadov. Therefore, the whole responsibility for extending the war to the whole Caucasian region and the deaths of the peaceful population lies fully with the Russian leadership. The events in Nalchik clearly demonstrate that the Kremlin has in fact lost control of the situation in the Caucasus.”