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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 18:35 GMT
Chechnya viewpoints: Akhmed Zakayev
BBCrussian.com asked 10 prominent politicians, human rights activists, analysts, journalists and writers to comment on the conflict in Chechnya, which erupted 10 years ago with Russia's massive military operation in the North Caucasus republic.

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

AKHMED ZAKAYEV, Chechen rebel envoy


The war in Chechnya has gone on for more than 13 years and has claimed 300,000 lives on both sides.

It is no mistake when I say 13 years, because in reality this war started in 1991, when the newly elected President of the Chechen Republic, Dzhokhar Dudayev, endorsed the declaration of sovereignty adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Akhmed Zakayev
Russia has never had legal reasons to claim Chechen territory
Akhmed Zakayev
The main cause of this conflict is the historical ambiguity of relations between Russia and Chechnya.

Russia has for many centuries attempted to take over Chechnya. The Chechens resisted these attempts, fighting for their freedom and independence.

In the 1990s, during the Gorbachev era, Russia and Chechnya had a historic chance to establish equal relations that later would have turned into integration under conditions of parity.

The Chechen government headed by Dzhokhar Dudayev was ready for this and called upon the Russian authorities to do that.

But the essence of the new pseudo-democratic Russia was that of an empire. Russia's pathetic democrats could not understand that colonial wars were a thing of the past.

It is important to note that a healthy portion of Russian society, like the Chechen people, was a victim and hostage of the Kremlin's Chechen policy.

Russian soldier in Grozny

In 1994 President Boris Yeltsin was already unable to make his own decisions and was under the influence of a group of opportunists. Each of them pursued his own goals, but all of them realised that the master of the Kremlin, whose ratings had dropped below zero, needed a quick and victorious war. So Yeltsin started this war, violating not only international law, but also his own constitution.

Russia has never had legal justification to claim Chechen territory. That is why the Russian authorities rejected political dialogue and attempted to solve this issue by means of force, ignoring the losses and committing monstrous crimes.

It is not only Yeltsin and [President Vladimir] Putin who are responsible for this war, but also the public that supports it. Out of political expediency, international institutions stick to the idea that the war in Chechnya is Russia's internal affair, turning a blind eye to human rights violations.


This conflict cannot be resolved by force. Sooner or later there will be negotiations. But today we can firmly state that Russia and Ichkeria [Chechnya] cannot get out of this vicious circle on their own.

International involvement is needed - but I don't see this happening in the near future. Neither the UN, nor the US nor the EU are ready to launch a peace settlement, because they don't want to offend their friend Putin.

They need this conflict, because without it Putin would be unpredictable and unmanageable. With the Chechen issue on his agenda, Putin is much more compliant.

Russia might understand how hopeless and calamitous this venture is for itself and might initiate international intervention to settle the conflict. In this case, the UN would not be able to ignore the issue.

But this is impossible under the current regime in Russia. Therefore I believe that the war will continue spreading all over the Caucasus. The Chechens will have nothing else to do, but to continue their fight for freedom.

It remains Russia's prerogative to start and to stop wars, and nothing has changed yet. Russian society will recognise our freedom only when it becomes free itself.

Chechnya: 10 years of conflict
02 Dec 04 |  Europe
North Caucasus: At a glance
08 Sep 04 |  Europe
Regions and territories: Chechnya
05 Oct 04 |  Country profiles


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