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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December 2004, 18:04 GMT
Chechnya viewpoints: Alu Alkhanov
The conflict that has raged in Chechnya for the past decade has triggered sharply contrasting views.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Russia's massive military assault on the breakaway republic, BBCrussian.com asked 10 prominent politicians, human rights activists, researchers and journalists to comment.

The panel were asked to answer two classic questions that have troubled Russian thinkers for centuries: "Who is to blame?" and "What can be done?"

Alu Alkhanov
Alu Alkhanov:
Chechen president

Irina Khakamada
Irina Hakamada:
liberal politician

Diederik Lohman
Diederik Lohman:
HRW researcher

Konstantin Kosachev
Konstantin Kosachev:
Russian MP

Sultan Yashurkayev
Sultan Yashurkayev:
Chechen writer
Tom de Waal
Tom de Waal:
Caucasus expert

Valentina Melnikova
Valentina Melnikova:
Soldiers' mothers

Mikhail Margelov
Mikhail Margelov:
Russian MP

Lyoma Turpalov
Lyoma Turpalov:
Chechen journalist

Akhmed Zakayev
Akhmed Zakayev:
rebel envoy


ALU ALKHANOV, President of Chechnya

WHO IS TO BLAME?

At the end of the 1980s there was a wave of popular protest in the Chechen-Ingush Republic against the plans to build a biochemical plant in Gudermes district.

Moscow-based and local nouveau riches needed a reliable 'window to Europe' in order to export raw materials and other resources
Alu Alkhanov
The legitimacy of the protest was recognised by the whole country. But politicising opportunists seized the opportunity to capitalise on it.

Numerous rallies that took place in Chechnya turned into discussion forums focusing on such subjects as ecology, water purification facilities, air pollution control, as well as children's and women's labour at a tobacco plantation in the republic's highlands.

But this is only a consequence. In the beginning was the Word.

"Take as much sovereignty as you can bear" [a quote from former Russian President Boris Yeltsin]. After such a statement, one didn't need to be a clairvoyant to sense the looming catastrophe.

But the people who for years had been afraid of showing emotions, even in their own kitchens, rushed towards the mirage of freedom, egged on by irresponsible politicians, such as [ex-speaker of the Russian parliament Ruslan] Khasbulatov, [ex-presidential aide Gennady] Burbulis, [ex-Russian press minister Mikhail] Poltoranin, [ex-presidential legal advisor Sergey] Shakhrai, [ex-Chechen separatist polician, later president of Chechnya, Zelimkhan] Yandarbiyev, [ex-Chechen separatist information minister Movladi] Udugov and others.

Russian soldier in Grozny
QUICK GUIDE

Out of 13 ethnic groups that had undergone deportations, only the Chechens, who above all value wisdom, failed to demonstrate it in this instance. The wise were mocked, the intelligentsia was despised.

Moscow-based and local nouveau riches needed a reliable "window to Europe" in order to export raw materials and other resources - that belong to the people - without delays or legal formalities. Chechnya appeared to be the most convenient place for this.

For the conspiracy to succeed, they needed to remove the legitimate authorities. Russian Supreme Soviet speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov threatened to bring [Doku] Zavgayev to Moscow in an iron cage and recommended that a new Chechen Supreme Soviet head be elected, the name of the candidate was to be agreed with [currently Russian presidential advisor] Aslambek Aslakhanov.

Ruslan Khasbulatov is one of those who carried a lighted match to the powder keg. It is to him the Chechens should be "grateful" for president Dzhokhar Dudayev, who got the role of chief executor in the events that followed.

But Dudayev, having developed a taste for power, decided not to share it with the others. He didn't want to be a puppet in the hands of various Khasbulatovs and their like. Moreover, he launched his own "business" and embarked on what in legal language is called "the excess of the executor". The conflict between the "organisers" and the "contractors" of the overthrow resulted in the Russian-Chechen war.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

There won't be a final settlement or a final solution to all internal and external problems while the matter remains in the hands of these very people who provoked bloodshed, who themselves shed other people's blood by raising their hand against their neighbours and who attempted to foment civil war in the republic.

Today we should realise that without a profound understanding of such notions as civic position, without serious judgment, nobody can guarantee that, as [late Chechen president] Akhmad-haji Kadyrov put it, another Varangian or emir will not come here to lecture us on what life is.

If somebody shows you the road to heaven, look under your feet - it might be laid with skulls.


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