RUSSIANS WITH THE TALIBAN?
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 11
On April 2, the North Caucasus Directorate of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office disclosed the names of several Russian citizens who had fought in Afghanistan on the Taliban side and were being kept at the Guantanamo U.S. military base in Cuba. Two of the captives, Ravil Gumarov and Almaz Sharipov, were reported to be ethnic Tatars from Tatarstan. One, Rasul Kudaev, was said to be a Balkar from Kabardino-Balkaria (RIA Novosti, April 2; Strana.ru, April 3). On April 3, a third Tatar, Airat Vakhitov, also from Tatarstan, was likewise reported being held at the base (Lenta.ru, April 3). Commenting on such reports, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, co-chair of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, a human rights organization based in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, remarked to correspondent Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times: “The fact that of the 300 people currently kept in Guantanamo only three may possibly be considered to be connected to the Chechen conflict–and even these three are not ethnic Chechens–destroys the myth that linked the conflict in Chechnya to the operation in Afghanistan. The reason why the Russian authorities have been trying to actively create a logical link between Chechnya and Afghanistan in the public mind is rather simple. They are trying hard to find a justification for the use of force and human rights violations–or, if we call a spade a spade, war crimes–in Chechnya” (Los Angeles Times, April 3).