Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 31

Chechen separatist foreign minister Akhmed Zakaev said in an interview posted on the separatist Chechenpress news agency’s website on July 28 that he would counter the new criminal case that the Russian authorities had launched against him for allegedly inciting ethnic hatred (Chechnya Weekly, July 27) with charges of his own. “Indeed, we could recall statements by [former Russian President Boris] Yeltsin, [former Russian Defense Minister Pavel] Grachev, [former Russian Federal Security Service Director Mikhail] Barsukov, [Russian Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir] Zhirinovsky, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, [General Vladimir] Shamanov, [General Viktor] Kazantsev, [General Gennady] Troshev and many other former and current political and military figures,” Zakaev told Chechenpress. “Putin, for one, openly blackmailed Chechens, linking the termination of abductions and ‘mopping-up’ operations to their voting in the 2003 referendum. Russia’s former prosecutor-general, now Justice Minister [Vladimir] Ustinov, called in the State Duma for taking Chechen residents hostage. Zhirinovsky declared on many occasions at rallies and in the press that ‘the only good Chechen is a dead Chechen.’ I can add that the Chechen side has collected and documented more than 150 such statements and calls by Russian public figures, including the Kremlin leadership, and no doubt the time will come for those facts to be presented in court.”

Chechenpress also asked Zakaev whether some of his “comrades-in-arms”—members of the separatist movement—are repeatedly criticizing his public statements in order to “intentionally provoke” him to say things that will be added to the Russian prosecutor general’s case against him. Zakaev responded, “The Almighty alone can judge the real intentions of those ‘comrades-in-arms,’ but objectively, it turns out to be the way you are saying. I am a fairly mature man, I am not a novice in politics and I know those whom I am dealing with well enough not to respond to all kinds of provocations, whomever they come from.”