Again I find a most interesting interview at Gara newspaper, this time with the leader of the Chechen government in exile, A. Zakayev. I translate it here to English as I think it is quite interesting:
Gara: 20 years have passed since the Berlin Wall was demolished and 10 since the beginning of the Second Chechen War. Would have changed anything if Gorbachev would have managed to fully implement the Perestroika?
Zakayev: No doubt. The catastrophe of Chechnya began with the collapse of the USSR, Yeltsin recognized the republics that broke apart (Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan...) but decreed that the Republic of Chechnya-Ingushetia would remain under control of Moscow. If Gorvachev would have managed to introduce all his reforms, both economical and political, today the USSR would be something like the European Union.
G: You were Minister of Culture in the government of Djokhar Dudayev until his death in 1996. What kind of leader was he?
Z: Many lies have been said of him. He has been called "bandit", "fanatic", "intransigent"... But in fact Dudayev was an intelligent and dialogant person, nothing like the image that Moscow has been trying to "sell". In November 1994 promised me that he would do everything possible to prevent the war and in December he received a telegram from the Kremlin calling for a negotiation round at Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia). Against the opinion of many in his cabinet, who were against any sort of negotiation, Dudayev confirmed his assistance. But Moscow canceled the meeting and the war began soon after that.
G: In any case, you won the First Chechen War (1994-96), and enjoyed then of som form of self-rule until the second war began. How was that period?
Z: I beleive that you should re-formulate your question. Who told you that we won the war? 80% of Grozny was destroyed but I never saw even a single broken window in Moscow. Those three years were some of the darkest ones in the history of Cechnya: more than 100,000 people died and as many were left homeless too. The Republic was completely ruined, people lived at the edge of desperation because mere survival was a huge challenge. In the peace agreement, the indemnizations to be paid by Moscow were determined, but none was ever fulfilled. We were the true victims of that war and even then it was said that we had won.
The Chechnyan government of that time, including myself, was guilty of excessive relaxation. In such situation it was easy for Moscow to manipulate its members. The situation reminded of how an adult in kindergarten manages the children at whim: conducting them, making them argue...
Sergei Primakov, the then Foreign Minister of Russia, anounced that they would break relations with anyone recognizing the independence of Chechnya. Nobody did, nor was there any European organization that would send a single ruble to Chechnya.
G: Can you describe in further detail that interference from Moscow?
Z: Since the very moment when the ceasefire was signed in September 1996, Russia began getting ready for the next war. It was not the end of a conflict but the beginning of the preparations for another one. The Russian secret services initiated a campaign to divide the Chechnyan people and prepare everything for the war to come.
They soon realized that the most effective way to split Chechnyan society was through religion. It was then when the Arabs began arriving to the country. All them brought money, money that never reached the leader of the Republic, who was then Masjadov, but that ended in the pockets of whoever was able to raise a combat unit. Most of them were opposed to the government.
A second area of intervention were the media. In the First Chechnyan War, journalists from all around the world had direct access to the country and said the truth about what happened there. Moscow wanted to prevent that at any cost, and the murders and kidnaps of journalists became common currency, in order to scare them. Then it came the turn of NGOs, beginning by the Red Cross itself.
Finally it was necessary for Russia to supress those who wanted to invest in Chechnya without passing through Moscow. I recall now those British Telecom engineers who arrived to the Republic to restore telephone lines: they were kidnapped and beheaded.
Our only achievement in that period was to prevent civil war among Chechnyans, something that Moscow wanted to provoke through the usual means.
G: You have denounced the alleged "close cooperation" between Arabs and Russians. Which are the grounds for that claim?
Z: In the USSR years there were many more foreigners from the Middle East than from anywhere else. Chechnyans are traditionally Sufi Muslims, while Wahabbism is a current only recently imported by Arabs and Russians, outside of genuine Islam. If all that money that came with the Arabs would have dropped directly from Moscow, Chechens would not have accepted it because it would mean treason. There were like 1500 Arabs in Chechnya and all of them had a visa stamp at Moscow. No one of them had entered the Republic illegally as it was claimed. The Kremlin knew perfectly who went to Chechnya and what for.
G: Do you still mantain that Putin killed Litvinenko?
Z: For Moscow there is people who just must be suppressed, regardless of whether these are Aslan Masjadov, Sergei Litvinenko or Anna Politovskaya. And Putin is so cynic that he doesn't even bother hiding that! They killed Politovskaya in October 7th, Putin's birthday. The press talked a lot about the "gift" for the Russian President. Putin was in a foreign country but did not took long for him to declare that, effectively, he did not like Politovskaya but that he had no connection with the murder.
G: When Litvinenko died you made another declaration in which you described him as "meaningless traitor" and when you said that there was no evidence that connected him with the FSB. Putin never thought that the British would find out that this death had been caused by polonium.
Z: Everybody knows who Putin is. We all know that he was the one who ordered the kids of Beslan killed, gas the crowds at Dubrovka Theater or blow up those apartment buildings that were the pretext for the Second Chechnyan War. What is most scary is that Putin is still a key piece of international politics, who is treated with respect by so many European leaders. Chechnya will be the first one, Georgia the second one and I can assure you that the third one will be Ukraine.
G: Last February, the president of pro-Russian Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov offered you to return to Grozny. In what stage are the negotiations at this moment?
Z: The press has speculated a lot about the negotiations on my suppossed return to Cechnya. I have been in fact in discrete but continuous contacts with representatives of the Russian Government since 2001. In the last two meetings in Oslo and London with Abdurajmanov (Kadyrov's delegate), I insisted in making public these meetings if what we want is in fact to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. On this day anyhow the conditions for my return to Chechnya do not exist. Returning to Chechnya now would be becoming accomplice of a regime whose decissions are made in Moscow.
G: Which is the current situation of insurgency, both in Chechnya and the rest of the Caucasus?
Z: Doku Umarov (self-proclaimed "Emir of North Caucasus") is just another victim of the provocations of the FSB but not for that reason can I agree with his ideology nor his view of the conflict. Suicide bombings are totally alien to Chechnyans. Dudayev and Masjadov said that in the past and we have been repeating the same for all these 20 years: at the beginning of the 1990s, Russia had a problem with Chechnya, 20 years later the problem is spread from the Caspian to the Black Sea. This is the result of trying to solve a political problem by force.