President Vladimir Putin has again justified Russia’s military intervention in Chechnya. In a live Internet interview yesterday organized jointly by the Strana.ru and Gazeta.ru websites and the British Broadcasting Corporation, Putin said the Russian army had been “forced to accept the challenge thrown by extremists and international terrorists, after they had attacked Dagestan” in 1999, and denied that the Russian people had “waged any war campaign against the Chechen people.” Comparing what had happened in Chechnya with “what is happening now in Kosovo and Macedonia,” Putin called on the international audience watching his webcast “to work together on solving one of the key problems of the modern world–fight against extremism and terrorism. And then in our country, and in Europe as a whole, in the world, there will be order, prosperity and development” (Gazeta.ru, March 6).
Putin’s interview came at a time when public support for the Kremlin’s Chechnya policy appears to be eroding. Yury Levada, director of the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) said yesterday that polling data show that the war in Chechnya ranks second only to rising prices among the public’s main concerns, and that more than half of the population now believes that the military operation in the breakaway republic should give way to negotiations. Concerns over the Chechen conflict, however, have apparently not eroded Putin’s approval rating, which, according to Levada, remains in the range of 65-70 percent (Radio Ekho Moskvy, March 6; see also Chechnya Weekly, March 6).
RUSSIAN AND COMMUNIST INTENTIONS IN MOLDOVA.