Russian media offered extensive coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. A number of Russian commentators remarked that they believed that the international community would now be considerably more understanding toward the Russian war effort in Chechnya. “As for Chechnya,” Aleksandr Dugin, the leader of the “Eurasia” Movement, observed, “the latest developments in the United States have seriously spoilt the image of Islam. Putin’s hands are all but untied now. He can raze all of Chechnya… and the international community will not say a word of protest.” Dugin went on to note that he did not personally recommend such a course of action (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 13).
Various spokesmen for the Russian government, the special services and the armed forces saw a close connection between the terrorist acts in the United States and the forces behind the separatist rebellion in Chechnya. The first to espy such a connection was the deputy head of police of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Yury Ovchinnikov, who “did not exclude the participation of Chechen terrorists in the terrorist acts in the United States” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 14). The Russian minister of defense, Sergei Ivanov, took exception to this view, stating on September 13 that Russia in fact possessed no direct evidence confirming that Chechen terrorists participated in organizing or carrying out the terrorist acts in America. Ivanov did, however, note that the Russian side possesses information concerning the ties of “those who are located in Chechnya with Osama bin Laden. This is not invention,” Ivanov stressed, “this is fact” (Lenta.ru, September 13).
In similar fashion, sources within the FSB confirmed on September 12 that “archives seized by the Russian special services from the Chechen rebels contain direct evidence of the personal participation of Osama bin Laden in supporting the terrorists in Chechnya.” According to these archives, which were said to have been seized in the Chechen capital, “the heads of the bandit formations, Shamil Basaev and Khattab, regularly coordinate their actions and plans with the ideational inspirer of ‘the world Jihad’ bin Laden” (Strana.ru, September 12). The FSB also stated its belief that the Islamic fundamentalist organization “Jamaat Al-Islami” was behind the terrorist acts against the United States. The headquarters of this radical group, it was claimed, is situated in Afghanistan, with filials in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It is this organization, the FSB went on to assert, that was behind “the explosions of the apartment houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk two years ago in which 230 people died” (Lenta.ru, September 12).
On September 12, Akhmar Zavgaev, the appointed representative of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration to the Russian Federation Council, declared that “the explosions of the houses in Moscow and Buinaksk [Dagestan], the blows against New York and Washington, the sorties in Macedonia, Tajikistan and Kirgiziya [Kyrgyzstan]–all of them are links in a single chain.” Zavgaev went on to call for “the creation of a single antiterrorist center under the aegis of the United Nations” (RIA Novosti, September 12).