Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 227

According the official Chechen version of events, laid out by Turpal-ali-Atgireev, the goal of the kidnappings’ organizers was to portray Chechnya to the rest of the world as a nest of bandits and terrorists. According to Atgireev, the goal of the whole series of recent kidnappings and terrorist acts is to sabotage the Chechen government’s efforts to establish normal relations with the world’s great powers. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, clearly shaken by the murder of the Britons, said he was convinced that the latest murders had nullified the results of the Chechen war and all of his government’s diplomatic work, and that this was the goal of those responsible for the murders. Maskhadov said he believed that foreign forces, trying to carve out spheres of influence in the Caucasus, stood behind the killings. Whether this is true or not, Maskhadov’s chances of establishing diplomatic relations with the rest of the world have been dramatically reduced (Russian agencies, December 8).

In an interview with NTV, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky said that the murder of the British hostages in Chechnya was predictable. Berezovsky stated that “today in Chechnya the moment has arrived for those who do not listen to the voice of reason and who accept no arguments.” Berezovsky particularly emphasized that he has in mind not only influential Chechen radicals like Salman Raduev and Shamil Basaev, but “absolutely crazed bandits.” In Berezovsky’s view, Maskhadov, in the wake of the murders, is on the brink of disaster. Not only is the Russian government turning away from Maskhadov, but the whole civilized world. Berezovsky added, however, that the Kremlin is primarily responsible for this situation. He said that the Moscow had been correct in betting on Maskhadov, who had come to power in democratic elections, but has failed to give him support (NTV, December 8). Berezovsky probably had in mind the fact that Moscow, despite the promises it made in writing at the end of the Chechen war, has given practically no aid to Chechnya, which was virtually destroyed by the Russian army. Berezovsky’s comments were his sharpest criticism to date of the Kremlin’s policy in the region.

Berezovsky has played a somewhat contradictory role in relation to Chechnya. On the one hand, for a year and a half he managed to free more hostages than any other Russian politician–sixty-nine people, including the two British humanitarian workers. Berezovsky was also involved in the release of the Russian Public Television (ORT) journalists, the first hostages to be taken in Chechnya. Berezovsky himself claimed that he tried to win the release of the Granger Telecom employees at the request of the British ambassador to Russia, but was unable to make contact with the kidnappers. The Chechen authorities, however, claim that ransoms were paid for these hostages, which led to the taking of more hostages and the creation of a profitable criminal “business.” The Chechen authorities have even claimed that Berezovsky himself paid the ransoms, thereby provoking criminals to take more hostages. Berezovsky denies ever having paid ransom money.