Chechnya is Russia’s biggest problem: that is the main political conclusion which Russian authorities, society, and the media have almost unanimously drawn from the hostage-taking in Moscow.
As expected, the unanimity does not extend to proposed solutions to the problem. Shamil Basayev has claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking at the theater on Melnikova Street, despite the statement of President Putin that the hostage-taking had been planned by people abroad. The Gazeta newspaper says that the “reconnaissance-diversion Riyadus-Salikhin battalion” led by Basayev has a direct connection with the Moscow events on October 23-26.
Having recognized the operation to be a success, although almost all of its participants had died, “Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Ichkeria Armed Forces Shamil Basayev” has submitted an application to Aslan Maskhadov requiring to free him of “all official positions in the Republic of Ichkeria” (the application was published on Maskhadov’s site).
Representatives of the special forces whom Gazeta asked for comments say Basayev’s application is favorable for Maskhadov first of all, as his reputation in the West has seriously suffered after the Dubrovka terrorist act.
Sergei Yastrzhembsky assumed that Basayev “has been shocked” and even “prostrated” as it has taken him a week to realize that “The terrorist act Maskhadov and him had planned failed, it did not bring Russia to knees, and did not destroy the anti-terrorist coalition.” Yastrzhembsky thinks Maskhadov has not “even the alleged legitimacy he has been granted by certain western forces so far”. That is why, the presidential aid states, Basayev is trying to “screen Maskhadov and to save his name for further political games.”
However, it is much more important that Basayev promised to continue terror, “according to the Israeli scenario” – without announcing concrete political requests, under the motto “Victory or paradise”.
The Kommersant newspaper reports that Basayev has called on the whole Chechen people to join the shahid battalion. At the same time, it was announced that from now on the terrorist acts will be directly only against the security forces rather than ordinary citizens. However, Kommersant says, it is hard to believe: “Civilians usually suffer the most from modern wars. Chechnya and Moscow are shining examples of this.”
The Russia military have immediately reacted to the statement. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Khabarovsk that withdrawal of the Russian Armed Forces from Chechnya was suspended. Moreover, the military have started “carrying out a tough and distinctly addressed special operation in all districts of the republic in order to prevent the roots of the threat.” (quoted from Vremya Novostei).
As the paper has found out, the Defense Ministry received after the Moscow terrorist act “increased information on preparation of new terrorist acts”, not in Moscow only. Moreover, as Ivanov reports, “in some villages, suicide terrorists are being recruited.” Apparently, this information has become the basis for the decision on the new stage of the military operation.
According to Vremya Novostei, “a broaders range of weapons can be used in Chechnya”. The paper says the weapons in question can be psychotropic or nerve agents, as well as “volume explosions”, which are highly effective in mountains.
It seems that “the Russian military leadership has decided to stress the security aspect of the problem salvation after the Moscow hostage-taking.” Supposedly, on the threshold of the winter, Chechen guerrillas are short of both armament and food, medicine, and warm clothing. “Consequently, participants of the army operation will have an additional chance to be a success.”
At present, this viewpoint has quite a number of convinced supporters. Literaturnaya Gazeta writes, “The military operation in Chechnya can be stopped. The army can be withdrawn from the republic. However, it will not solve the problem. People who capture hospitals, maternity hospitals, and theaters can understand only one language – the language of force.”
Presumably, the response should be adequate: “Not only terrorists but all who are connected with them should realize that if defenseless people become their victims, then defendants can also been unprotected people.” First, it concerns those who are not connected with terrorist acts but supply terrorists with “shelter and bread” because of their sibling or compatriotic relations. Moreover, it may also concern those, “who find themselves close to terrorists by an accident or bad luck”.
Literaturnaya Gazeta stresses, it is time to understand that the statements that peaceful people must not suffer from fighting terrorism are “noble but stupid”. Moreover, from the standpoint of the paper, supporting this opinion means a “psychological surrendering to terrorism.”
At the same time, the paper makes a reserve that choosing the methods for fighting terrorism should not be shifted to the public consciousness, “People’s psyche and human spirits cannot bear so much.” The authorities should make the decision.
However, the authorities should not expect gratitude: “They will not get monuments for it. Probably, people will repudiate it, and even condemn.” But political scientist Viktor Guschin says in the paper, “In the present historical situation, when the world is being psychologically split, the mission of the power is to take the responsibility for making decisions.” And for their consequences. Moreover, the authorities are expected not to fulfill this mission only, but in accordance with old Russian paternal traditions, to make some psychotherapeutic efforts as well.
Valery Fedorov, Director of the Center for Political Conjuncture, wrote in the Vek weekly, “Over the three years of the counter-terrorist operation we are used that there is a strong shield between the Caucasus war and peaceful life in the rest of Russia. The authorities have provided a feeling of stability and has assumed the salvation of difficult issues. The society has gladly distanced from resolving such issues and allowed the authorities to rule, reform, and fight.”
Today, the author admits, the “usual feeling of global protection” has been replaced with “a more disturbing feeling.” Russians have suddenly seen a new, unusual, and uncomfortable or them president’s image.
Valery Fedorov says, Putin rejected his image of the “nation’s father” and acted as a “manager, an executive, who acts without emotions and orients on achieving the goal: to release hostages and repulse the terrorists’ attack.” Instead of calming the people down, the president started solving the problem by himself, basing only on “security structure professionals”.
As is known, he addressed the people – after the event. Meanwhile, Vek notes, “people were expected for comforting, and calming words from the very beginning.” In fact, Putin “was the only leader and politician in the country, who was trusted and who people were ready to listen to.”
The author considers this to be the traditional Russian infantilism: “Russia was not ready for independent adult life, if not without the father but even separately from him.” However it is not ruled out the country is growing up, though slowly.
According to a poll ROMIR published on October 25, the second day of the hostage crisis, 70% of Muscovites said they did not plan to change their lifestyle because of the event. (Quoted in Profil magazine.)
Pollsters note that this a typical reaction for residents of a large city, who suffer from information overload, as this did not concern them or their close relatives. Experts say that in such cases the reaction is usually delayed.
Three days later, VTsIOM published the results of the poll carried out on October 25-28: 36% of respondents said they felt fear due to the hostage taking; 44% of respondent felt anger or annoyance, reported Moskovskaya Pravda.
Those are strong emotions, and it was necessary to give vent to them. Different Russian cities started reporting on the attempts of both ordinary people and the police to “clear it up” with Chechens.
As usually, the capital became the leader. The Moskovskie Novosti paper says: “The police described what was happening to Chechens in Moscow last week as special measures.” Nothing has changed: “fingerprinting everybody, taking police photographs, and filling out lengthy forms: how long has a person lived in Moscow, why they came there, when will they leave, what other Chechens they meet, and how many of them are guerrillas.”
Moskovskie Novosti called it “A third version of the Chechen war, under the motto: All Russia against all Chechens.”
Famous journalist Maksim Sokolov says in Izvestia, “After the hostage-taking, a neighboring Chechen will evoke – reasonably – the same feeling as an unattended suitcase at the airport: a conscientious person will call the police, an non-conscientious one will go as far as possible to be on the safe side.” Sokolov says that statements such as “Crime has no ethnicity!” are understandable and even good: their authors are willing to prevent “a chaotic response in the form of ethnic pogroms.” At the same time, the author believes it is a wrong thesis, for the police know very well “There are crime statistics and they are different for different ethnic groups.” The author also provides “shining examples”: “It is safer to drink a great deal with an unfamiliar Georgian than with an unfamiliar Russian; while it is safer to give a job to an unfamiliar Russian than to an unfamiliar Ingushetian.” Chechen crime has its own peculiarities: “There are more murders, abductions, and terrorist acts per capita for Chechens than for other ethnic groups of the former USSR.”
However, Maksim Sokolov strongly rejects accusations of neo-nazism: “The Nazis were extremely interested in collecting examples of dangers posed by Jews. But they could find only one example – for all Jews in the world – of a murder committed by a Jew: emigrant Hershel Grinshpan killed a German diplomat in 1938 in Paris. If the Chechen statistics were the same, any reasonable person would have to protect them. But their statistics are different.” Sokolov’s article is titled “Crime and ethnicity”.
The hostage-taking revealed an entirely new attitude taken by the majority of Caucasus diasporas in Moscow, as the radical leftist Zavtra newspaper noted. “It seems the first time such a great number of Azerbaijanis and Georgians have almost openly supporting a terrorist act.” According to the paper, only Armenian, Ossetian, and Dagestani diasporas have been relatively pro-Russian.
“Extortion practised aganist all people from the Caucasus by Moscow authorities have made them very bitter, and they are glad about any disruption of order in the Russian capital,” Zavtra says. “Obviously, the Moscow authorities have a financial interest in forming support bases of unfriendly diasporas right around the Kremlin.”
Only terrorists are not afraid of this position of the Moscow authorities, “The budget of any terrorist operation includes resources for bribing local authorities.” Zavtra blames the Moscow government for any preventive or investigation measures being impossible in the conditions of total corruption it has created: “Moscow has long used only enforcement: Special Police Forces, now the former KGB forces….” The Moscow authorities are openly relying on Caucasus natives in fighting competitors. Caucasus extremism is an annoying cost for officials.
The Argumenty i Fakty weekly titled its article “Will there be a repetition?” Argumenty i Fakty reports that according to the security forces, terrorists were preparing four terrorist acts in Moscow. That is why, besides the terrorist found and killed in the course of storming the Dubrovka theater, there are still “many people connected with the terrorist act but not found so far.”
Besides, the paper notes, the new tough tactics of the federal forces in Chechnya makes the “Israeli scenario” more than possible: great numbers of shahids are quite likely to appear in Russia: “They will come to the subway, stores, buses, cinemas, and blasts kilograms of explosives hidden under their clothing.”
Aleksei Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Duma Defense committee wrote in the Moskovkie Novosti weekly, “The terror against peaceful residents we can see in Israeli is able to paralyze Russia, cause mass panics, and the most negative political consequences, including introduction of emergency in the country.” Arbatov stresses that the forty suicide terrorists who took over the theater are a drop in the bucket. “There are hundreds of young people in Chechnya who have grown up in wartime, have seen nothing but war, and have warped minds.” These people are not afraid of death: they have not seen much good in their lives, and do not value their lives. “They are ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of some mythical symbols they believe in.” Arbatov thinks the only way to avoid the “Palestinian scenario” is to find a political solution to the problem. “A peace settlement should observe a number of unshakeable principles. At the same time, political realities should not be ignored either: we should negotiate with those who fight against us rather than those we ‘appointed’ in Chechnya and who will disappear the day after we leave there.”
Meanwhile, the number of pacifists has sharply decreased in Russia lately: before the hostage-taking, 34% of respondents supported the continuation of the military operation in Chechnya; at present, this number has grown to 46%. Consequently, the number of supporters of peace negotiations has decreased from 57% to 44%.
Experts refuse to say how long the bitterness in Russia can last. VTsIOM leading expert Leonid Sedov says in Izvestia that the future will depend on the success of the federal forces in Chechnya: the society may disappoint with the war after a while.
Especially, there is such as term as “tiredness of the war”. Vyacheslav Nikonov reminded in Izvestia that at the beginning of the war, the number of its supporters is always higher than in the end – “it is a general trend”.
Russian human right defenders are still insisting on negotiations, even after the federal forces have started another military operation in Chechnya, Vremya Novostei reports.
The human right defense movement does not doubt that resuming the military operation in Chechnya makes other terrorists act inevitable. The Memoria Center, the All-Russia movement For Human Rights, and the Andrei Sakharov Museum have appealed to the president in these terms.
Sergei Kovalev told the Vremya Novostei paper, “Throughout the barbarous events in Moscow, the regime was thinking only about saving face. It has not lost face – but at an appalling cost. Its prestige has been saved. The question now is what to do about the endless guerrilla war.” Kovalev considers that the current situation is even much more convenient for the Russian authorities, because they may convene the talks from the position of strength.
On October 27, the day after the hostages had been released, Yelena Bonner told Moskovskie Novosti, “The tragedy has happened. Now, nothing holds Putin back from acting in the only correct, principled, and moral way. If we take into account that he did not meet the demands of the hostage takers – peace negotiations – because of a resolve not to meet the demands of terrorists, now peace negotiations would be a decent way out of the present situation in Russia.”
Moreover, Bonner thinks Russia has been in this situation not due to terrorists, but “due to eight years of the senseless Chechen war.” This is twice as long as the Soviet Union was involved in the Second World War.
According to Profil magazine, prevailing attitudes toward Chechnya will change: “This topic will really concern everyone, as a vitally important problem. That is why it is to be solved.”
According to Profil, it is equally important to choose the methods for salvation of the problem. “The authorities will have to search for it. Otherwise, someone else will make the decision.”
Vek writes, “Today the matter is not about Chechnya only, but about the network of the civil war and terror, which has been spread over Russia.” The weekly stresses that “At best, Chechnya is a supplier of cannot meat and terrorists, while the financial, economic, organizational, and technical infrastructure of the civil war” of the new type is far “beyond the fighting republic, in allegedly peaceful Russian cities”.
According to the sources of Vek, at least 70% of means for funding Chechen guerrillas are supplied not from the international terrorist network, but from internal, Russian sources. An observer of Vek, Sergei Norka writes, “It is impossible to cut internal financial sources with the present Interior Ministry.” And the sources are bottomless, “Chechen business brings billions of dollars”.
Undoubtedly, it is necessary to leave Chechnya, writes Dmitry Bykov in Sobesednik, “not because the Chechen people have made the right choice and the Shariat laws are the only noble and humane; not because the war is disgusting, but because Russia is unable to fight this war.” Consequently, continuation of the military operation is automatically “multiplying casualties from both sides and provoking new terrorist acts.”
Relying on revenge, fear, anger, and annoyance is not constructive; it gives another chance to the “party of war”. Satirist Mikhail Zadornov writes in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, “It is time to stop. The Caucasus war cannot give us more than books such as ‘The Prisoner of the Caucasus’ or ‘Hadji-Murat’.” Now is the time to say farewell to Chechnya without losing face.
If Chechnya is separated from Russia, today’s “guerrillas” would have to learn how to print their own money and ID papers, how to grow crops, build houses and schools, and open new enterprises. Zadornov says, “Those who are dreaming of taking revenge on Chechnya should realize that its separation from Russia could be this revenge.”
Besides, Russia cannot have national interests which kill its young people – the West has long realized this truth. “A statesman is someone who cares about the young generation,” Zadornov stressed. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta at present, at least 100 military and policemen die in Chechnya each month, let alone civilian casualties, who are not counted…