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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 11:09 GMT
Chechnya: Is Russian retaliation the answer?
  Click here to watch this edition of Talking Point with special guest Professor Margot Light from the London School of Economics.  

Russian troops have launched large-scale operations against separatist rebels throughout Chechnya, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced.

The offensive comes a week after Russian troops stormed a Moscow theatre in which about 800 theatre goers were taken hostage by Chechen rebels.

The Moscow theatre siege in which 119 people died brought the long-forgotten war in Chechnya back into the public eye, and it is certain to stay there until a long-term solution is found.

The siege may be over but many Russians are fearful something similar may happen again unless peace is brought to Chechnya.

Are the Russians justified in stepping up military action in Chechnya after the Moscow hostage siege? Or should they address the grievances of the Chechen rebels and seek a political solution?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


I'd be more than happy to see a foreign peacekeeping force there

Andrej, Russia
Terrorism can never be acceptable in our society, it absolutely must stop, and the only possible solution is to give people the chance to have their say before they need to kill.
Paul, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Speaking as an ethnic Russian, I'm offering a deal to the international community: we'll give Chechnya independence if you can guarantee our safety from the numerous professional criminals who dwell there. I'd be more than happy to see a foreign peacekeeping force there than see our boys get killed (as if we didn't have a negative population growth already). The 1996-99 experiment with de facto independence failed miserably; why is it so surprising to you that we don't expect things to improve if we pull out?
Andrej, Russia

Russia should prove that they are now a truly democratic nation by giving the Chechens a vote on their future. If the Chechen people want a devolved parliament or full state they should be allowed to as their democratic right. It's no different to Scotland and many other places that have been given this opportunity.
Allan Rankine, UK

Most of English speaking people can't read what is written in the Russian part of BBC site - in complete disagreement with you! You just don't understand Chechens. Russian people see them everyday. We already allowed them to live independently in 1996-99 but what was in Chechnya during that time? Four UK engineers were beheaded. Many hostages from all Russian cities etc. We can let them go, but who will defend us from them? Western standards can't be implemented here, because you just don't understand Chechens.
Rinat, Omsk, Russia

I reply to Russians, who are saying that all Chechens are terrorists. I'm Chechen from the village of Khaibah,. In 1944 the Russians burnt 700 people mostly women and children, alive, just because it was too high in the mountains.(And it would take too long to get them to the train carts.) 50 years later Russia destroys the city that raised me, The history is very long and tragic. But I am convinced that Chechens and Russians can live in peace, If Russia's real democrats come to power. People such as Ivan Ribkin, Sergei Kovalev etc. There are plenty of them.
Usi, Boston USA


The hostage taking event has delayed behind the scenes dialogue by at least 3 years

Yevgeni, Russia
What should happen now in Chechnya is simply a continuation of the daily hunt for extremists alongside the simultaneous rebuilding of the civil infrastructure. Negotiation with the moderate separatists will have to wait till the dust settles and emotions calm. The hostage taking event has delayed behind the scenes dialog by at least 3 years.
Yevgeni, Russia

As the Baltic countries were able to peacefully separate from Russia, so should Chechnya! The fact that Russia won't let go of the Chechen rebels and their country is troubling. Russia doesn't need Chechnya. Russia should leave Chechnya alone and work on civil rights in their own country.
Xerxes, Seattle, USA/ Estonia

It is not time that Russia withdraw from Chechnya and allow them to form an independent and democratic sovereign state?
Christian Rocha, San Diego, California

The Chechens are brave proud people who are fighting for their right to have their own country like any other nation. The rest of the world is as guilty as Russia for allowing the Russian army carry out such brutal assault against innocent civilians.
Jack Ritchie


Only after 11 September did they get the right catch words

Khrystene Dalecki, Melbourne, Australia
The Russian government has spent years justifying their invasion - and only after 11 September did they get the right catch words ("We're fighting terrorism") to get the rest of the West onside. It's rubbish and it's an unjustified war. The Chechen people deserve not to be subject to the continued abuse and murder from the hands of the Russian army. It seems that for them, the Soviet Regime never died.
Khrystene Dalecki, Melbourne, Australia

Russia should try to resolve the issue in a peaceful manner rather than adopting aggressive actions which often results in devastating consequences. Dialogues and negotiations are the methods that should be utilized to encounter such issues. Though Russian has the right to defend its territory at the same time it should look into the causes of such uprisings.
Malik Dawood, Dallas, US


Russia should give up the war and demobilize its forces

Zhapar Yerzhan, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Russia should give up the war and demobilize its forces. The solution will come for sure. They have no choice; otherwise in the near future hundreds of theatres around Russia will be stormed by Chechen extremists until Chechnya as a nation will disappear from Earth's surface.
Zhapar Yerzhan, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Too many people are blaming all Chechens for the actions of a small group of religious fanatics. Most Chechens did not support the rebel attacks on Dagestan and the later apartment building attacks. Putin should have worked with the Chechens in 1999 to wipe out the Islamic extremist movement, which had little support among the people.
Jeff, USA

The Chechens should be stopped and my country should occupy Chechnya, because they will keep on attacking if they become independent.
Sergei, Leningrad, Russia


What is it about Chechnya that makes it worth all this bloodshed?

Will O'Malley, Stone, England
You'd think that Chechnya was more trouble than its worth. Why not just let it go? (Like other former USSR states). What is it about Chechnya that makes it worth all this bloodshed? Oil? Uranium? Or simply 'saving face'?
Will O'Malley, Stone, England

As much as I oppose terrorism, I do so for occupation. Russia should stop the war in Chechnya and instead make peace and economical cooperation between the two nations that will produce a win-win result for both.
Sufy, Columbus, OH

Russia needs to invest more on it's intelligence right now and make sure that the theatre massacre doesn't happen again, ever!
Bhaskar, India

There is no political solution to be had with Islamic extremists. Hamas and al-Qaeda have taught us this. Chechnya will only have peace when these murderers are defeated once and for all. If they want a holy war, Putin should give them one.
Rich, Dallas, TX, USA

The Russian military should pull out immediately. After this there should be negotiation, including all sides followed by a referendum in Chechnya monitored by international election observers. If the majority of Chechens vote for independence it should be internationally recognized immediately.
Ryan McLellan, USA


The only solution is for Chechnya to be allowed to achieve its independence

Jade Peruzzi, Venezia, Italia
The only solution is for Chechnya to be allowed to achieve its independence. Russia can then spend its gross annual income on updating its health care and feeding its people rather than blitz freedom fighters and innocent civilians to gain control of the gas pipelines.
Jade Peruzzi, Venezia, Italia

Russia should pursue and neutralize once and for all, the criminal underworld that has populated the Caucuses for centuries.
Mark, USA

I agree with the majority here that the Chechens need independence and that the Russian government needs to stop its terrorist actions against Chechnya. However, it scares me that I hear many saying about this and many other similar acts of violence (the sniper in America, al-Qaeda, and Iraq) that we should not react violently because this will only cause a stronger reaction from the attackers. Though this point is no doubt true I would rather that our moral reasoning went above saving our own skins and really contemplated the depth of the issue.
Cilia, USA


Chechens are better off under Russian rule

Tom, USA
Russia should be praised for their bold action. There is no reason for Russia to leave Chechnya. Chechens are better off under Russian rule than any government run by these terrorists. If Chechnya is given independence it will be worse than Afghanistan was under the Taleban. It will be hotbed of Islamic terrorism trying to stage attacks on the west.
Tom, USA

The Chechens are very proud, stubborn people who will never give up under any circumstances to win independence from Russia; they will fight until the last man.
Jarkko Inkovaarasz, Canada

If Russia steps up the military campaign against Chechens, they would counter attack Russia with more terrorist activities. The war would never then come to an end. Peaceful negotiations are the best way to achieve peace within the region. There can be no good results without sacrifices.
Pravesh Saria, Nepal/USA

Get out of Chechnya immediately. They deserve to be independent.
Olga, Moscow, Russia


I am against any war. But I don't think just letting Chechnya go is a solution, it has been tried once

Tatiana Gaidenko, Moscow, Russia
Chechens never were a peaceful nation. They always bothered their neighbours. There are no prominent scientists, writers or musicians in their history, only warriors. They were left alone in 1996, but did nothing for peaceful development, they started raids on neighbouring villages in other Caucasian republics, they started PUBLIC EXECUTIONS on the streets of their cities, they declared that all the Caucasus should be strictly Islamic, they kidnapped people and made them their slaves. Would United States or any Western country want such a neighbour? I am against any war. But I don't think just letting Chechnya go is a solution, it has been tried once. From my point of view the solution would be to have international peacekeepers deployed on this territory in large amounts for a long time, until peaceful development goes far enough. Unfortunately, I am not sure if Russia, Chechnya or the West are ready for this.
Tatiana Gaidenko, Moscow, Russia


This is a case of having gone beyond the point of no return

Ludo Vennekens, Houthalen, Belgium
This is another case of having gone beyond the point of no return. Like Afghanistan, it will be difficult for the Russians to let go and have another rogue state on their borders, but that is what it looks like it is going to be.
Ludo Vennekens, Houthalen, Belgium

Simple and easy, Russia must get out of Chechnya as soon as they can. After years of fighting and killing, the Russians still do not recognize that they cannot win. The Chechens have a moral, ethical and legal right to defend their ethnicity, culture and after all, the lives of their people.
Karamali Adibifar, USA


Russia needs to let go of Chechnya

GC Jordahl, U.S.A.
Russia had every right to act as it has. Certain acts (terrorist acts) deserve blunt and severe reactions. Considering what could have happened, the Russian military did a commendable job. That said, Russia needs to let go of Chechnya. Culturally, they have little in common. If there are resources there that Russia needs, secure them and let Chechnya be.
GC Jordahl, U.S.A.

The hostage-taking in Moscow is a clear signal to the West that it should stop playing the Chechen card against Russia. Chechen rebels have not shown any gratitude to Western Europe for all the support their cause received from that quarter. They treated hostages from European countries with as much cruelty as they treated Russians. And there is no guarantee that at some point they will not do something equally abominable in Paris or Brussels.
Anton, Moscow, Russia

Putin should be wise enough to consider a political solution, rather than a military one which may just lead to more mistrust, hatred and possible retaliation. No nation likes to be treated like an underdog.
Forteh Innocent, Cameroon

Should Russia withdraw its forces, slavery, tortures, drugs, mass killings and extremism will overwhelm the Chechen republic. If USA entered Afghanistan to make it civilized, why can't Russia do the same on their own territory?
Igor, Russia


A referendum on independence should be held

Ugis Zeltins, Latvia
Russians should withdraw from Chechnya; in fact, that should have happened years ago. Next, a referendum on independence should be held.
Ugis Zeltins, Latvia

Under no circumstances should Russia now start negotiating with the Chechen terrorists. It would be like the US negotiating with al-Qaeda! What is needed is an overwhelming military response by the Russian forces and the blacklisting of the Chechen terrorists by every civilized nation.
Roman Lajciak, Bratislava, Slovakia

Russia only wants to keep Chechnya because it's the only state left under Russia's control since the break-up of the USSR. It would damage its pride to let it become an independent state. There is nothing of any great importance in Chechnya, so I don't know why they don't just do what the Chechens want, give it independence! It would stop a lot of unnecessary bloodshed and would finally make the region more peaceful.
Rob L, England


I believe that the only way to defeat terrorists is to use excessive military force

Vadims, Latvia
I believe that the only way to defeat terrorists is to use excessive military force. America and Russia should join forces and strike Chechen rebels and other terrorists wherever it is possible. Otherwise any other country can be targeted by terrorists next.
Vadims, Latvia

The conquering policies of the Russians can never justified. Killing Chechen innocents is what Russia calls military action.
Catherine, Ukraine

The Chechens want their FREEDOM. I am proud to be Lithuanian. We have won our freedom in a peaceful way. There were many reasons for that. The only way to solve problems in Chechnya is to start negotiations. The Russian government must do that for the good of their own.
Deta, Lithuania

While the terrorist seizure of hostages is utterly contemptible, the ruthlessness of the Russian response is also very deplorable - and typical! A solution for Chechnya has to be found as elsewhere too. "Terrorism" itself is not at the root of problems. You can't fight terrorism without bothering to find out what frustrations exactly create such hate.
Chris, Germany


Like Afghanistan. Chechnya requires nation-building measures

James Wild, UK
Putin should have formal talks with the President of Chechnya Aslan Maskhadov. These should be to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict. There needs to be a referendum of the Chechen people on whether the majority want independence and this should be granted if the majority want it. Like Afghanistan, Chechnya requires nation-building measures such as the rebuilding of the capital Grozny and the whole country needs a new infrastructure. The UN need to get involved.
James Wild, UK

The dominating feeling among Russians is that Chechnya should be independent if its people want to. But at present its very strange to hear the suggestions to stop military action and start peace talks. We already had since 1996 to 1999 a peace with terrorists that finished by their invasion into the Russian republic of Dagestan. The invasion, not deadly bombing in Moscow and other Russian cities, were the reason for second military action that lasts since 1999. The negotiations on Chechnya independence will start immediately after the Chechens are ready for political solution of the problem.
Alexei, Russia

I know it's a terrible thing that 100 or so hostages have died. It needs to be put into perspective though. When the SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy in London, an acceptable figure for casualties was put at 30 percent. Though 100 is a large number it only represents 10 percent and would by our own government be classed as acceptable losses.
Mike, UK

Gassing hundreds of your own people just to prove that Kremlin shall not yield. How pathetic, and how tragic. Putin should swallow his pride and withdraw Russian troops from Chechnya immediately. Punish Chechens? They have already been punished to such an extent that they have nothing to lose. Henceforth expect more attacks in Russia proper.
Meerkat, USA


Until Chechnya is freed of Russian occupation there will be no lasting peace.

Bhupinder Singh, India

Though in a tragic way, the Chechen rebels have shaken up the fallacy of Putin who had been telling the Russian people that Chechnya was under control. People realise that until Chechnya is freed of Russian occupation there will be no lasting peace.
Bhupinder Singh, India

The Chechens, like the Palestinians must realise that whatever the merits of their cause, if they either actively engage in terror or give sanctuary to (or support in any form) terrorists this will backfire horrendously on them. In the current climate (war on terror) the only hope for the Chechens is to purge themselves of the extremists in their ranks and seek the path of dialogue(it may not result in independence but it will prevent them suffering Russian retribution).
Syd Kaminsky, UK

Putin should stop boasting about "restoring order" in Chechnya and withdraw Soviet (excuse me: Russian) forces from that country. Otherwise he should prepare for a wave of the terrorist attacks in Russia proper. One cannot subjugate people fighting for their independence. Palestinians are a case in point.
Mirek Kondracki, USA


Chechnya must be punished for harbouring these murderous terrorists

Mike, Bahamas
The Chechen rebels were nothing more than terrorist thugs. They have managed to set world opinion against the very cause they wanted us all to support. Chechnya must now be punished for harbouring these murderous terrorists. Terrorism must be eradicated by any means available.
Mike, Bahamas

By showing how they deal with protecting Russian civilians - over a hundred dead just to avoid negotiations over peace - one can imagine how Russian troops deal with protecting Chechen civilians. I was in Grozny recently. It is no fun. The city has been bombed and bombed and bombed. Ten times ground zero. Dead toll: two hundred thousand civilians. What should a Chechen do in such circumstances?
Renzo Martens, The Netherlands

There is little to be said. America went through exactly the same situation. America's war on terror was justified by the actions of a few on Sept 11. Thus this should justify any action however brutal taken by the Russians on the Chechens. We can not live by double standards and feel pity for some groups of terrorists and bomb others.
Bill, Australia

Russia should seek a political solution. When Putin invaded in 1999, it was in response to terrorist explosions which he blamed on the Chechen rebels. There was no evidence that Chechnya was responsible, and since Russia invaded there have been atrocities and human rights violations from both sides. Trying to force a military solution will only lead to more terrorist attacks, and more innocent victims. The Chechen people see themselves as a separate people with a separate culture and identity. It is time the Russians respected this and gave Chechnya a large measure of autonomy or even full independence.
Kevin, UK


Military action will only serve to further polarise opinion

Rich, UK
Military action will only serve to further polarise opinion, resulting in more bloodshed. Just look at Israel and Palestine. As soon as dialogue ends, the fighting starts again. Why don't world leaders do their jobs properly and learn from their past mistakes? Conversation, humility and understanding are the building blocks of lasting peace.
Rich, UK

Simple. Russia needs to pull out of Chechnya. If we look at the former Yugoslavia, just as one of many, many examples, history tells us that the countries fighting for their independence will get it in the end. What right has Russia over such a country anyway? Russia has been handed billions of dollars of economic aid from us taxpayers in the West, and yet much of it goes on maintaining an unjust war against civilians in Chechnya. I would prefer to see the West boycott Russia!
Mick, UK

Now it is established that Russia has been making weapons of mass destruction and are in breach of laws and treaties and has "gassed" its own people.
Sumair, Netherlands

The Russian troops should definitely be praised for the successful action they have taken in such a short period. I mourn the deaths of the innocent hostages and the Alpha personnel involved in the operation. Political steps should always be taken in parallel to other methods such as using defence forces. The late general Lebed took political steps and was successful in stopping the Chechen war at least for a period of time. Everybody has the right to ask for Independence and so do the Chechens but the Chechens should understand that at the moment they should stop their fight, and restore peace and harmony in the region, educate their children so that they live to continue their struggle in a civilized manner.
Ramnik Singh Kohli, India


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