The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has delivered an official note of protest to the embassy of Saudi Arabia connected to statements made by the Saudi state secretary about Chechnya during the Islamic conference of foreign ministers that recently took place in Malaysia. The Russian demarche stated that the Saudi minister’s use of the phrases “right of self-determination” and his appeal to refrain from the use of force “cannot be assessed any other way than as interference in Russia’s internal affairs, as attempts to inflame inter-denominational strife within its multinational population, and in fact put in question the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity” (BBC, July 2).
Kremlin representatives have frequently accused so-called “Wahabbis” of playing a destabilizing role in the North Caucasus. While the Wahabbi strain of Islam is close to the state religion of Saudi Arabia, the term “Wahabbi” is used in Russia to refer to various Islamic fundamentalist groups in the North Caucasus whose ideologies are in fact far from Wahabbism. Russian officials have frequently claimed that Wahabbis in the North Caucasus have received aid from their allies in the Middle East. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s protest, however, marked the first official demarche directed at Riyadh. Meanwhile, a source in the headquarters of the Russian forces in the North Caucasus claimed today that Khattab, a key rebel leader associated with the Wahabbis in Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, received shrapnel wounds during a federal bombardment of the Vedeno Gorge (Russian agencies, July 3). Khattab, according to various reports, is of either Jordanian or Saudi extraction.
NEWSPAPER: PUTIN BACKS RESTORING SOVIET ANTHEM.