Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 43

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has demanded explanations from Sweden concerning the opening of the Chechen separatist Kavkaz Center website in Sweden. “We expect Sweden, which says that it is a steadfast member of the international coalition in the war on terror, to take necessary action to put a stop to the propaganda of terrorist ideas and violence from its territory,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 18, as quoted by Interfax. “There can be no double standards here as it is one of the goals of terrorists to attract the attention of public opinion and sow seeds of discord and hatred in the world.” The ministry stated that websites like Kavkaz Center “have a direct bearing on the security of Russia.”

Earlier, on November 16, MosNews quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying in relation to Kavkaz Center’s re-appearance that Internet access should be regulated – possibly, as the website put it, “through intercepting cable, telephone and other channels providing Internet access.” Kavkaz Center, Lavrov said, is “used to incite terrorist activities.” In September, the website posted an e-mail it said was from Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev claiming responsibility for the Beslan school seizure, in which more than 330 people died, half of them children.

Lithuania’s State Security Department closed down Kavakaz Center in September under pressure from the Kremlin, after which the website re-emerged in early October hosted in Finland by a businessman. On November 22, Kavkaz Center posted an item it said had originally appeared in Suomen Kuvalehti, Finland’s leading weekly magazine, stating that the Finish businessman in question, Mikael Sturshe, is now hosting Kavkaz Center in Sweden. The Associated Press on November 19 quoted Jean Hamberg, managing director for Port80 AB, a Stockholm-based Internet service provider, as saying that Kavkaz Center was running on its servers. “Nobody has complained about it,” he told the AP. “No officials, I should say.”

Among those who are complaining about Sweden’s hosting of Kavkaz Center is Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov, who told Interfax on November 17 that Sweden was guilty of employing double standards in the fight against terrorism. Swedish Ambassador to Moscow Johann Mullender, meanwhile, said that only his country’s chief prosecutor has the legal authority to close a website. “Sweden is for cooperation with other nations in the war on terror, but wants to fight that evil in accordance with its laws and constitution, with the observance of human rights,” Itar-Tass quoted him as saying on November 18.

Meanwhile, the Kavkazky Uzel website on November 20 quoted a Lithuanian human rights activist, Viktoras Piatkus, as saying that a Vilnius court ruled that the decision to shut down Kavkaz Center in Lithuania had violated the law and that the website was now free to operate in that country.