#6 - JRL 7010
C O M M E N T A R Y
NOT ALL CHECHENS HAVE THEIR FINGERS SHOT OFF BY ZAKAYEV
MOSCOW, JANUARY 8 /from RIA Novosti's political analyst Vladimir Simonov/ - Hearings of the Akhmed Zakayev case will resume in London on January 9, with the ruins of the government building in Grozny, the Chechen terrorists blew up on December 27, to be in the backdrop.
To blame for tens of deaths claimed by the Grozny terrorist act are Zakayev's associates, if not his close friends. The terrifying act in Grozny is actually their Christmas present to Zakayev, an act of solidarity of a sort with their sidekick.
British actress Vanessa Redgrave would not, certainly, agree with the above description of Zakayev who she had released on a 50,000-pound bail and provided with housing. In a Guardian interview Ms Redgrave insisted that Zakayev, who has been ex-president Aslan Maskhadov's personal emissary since 2000, is neither a militant nor a terrorist but a humanist and widely respected actor in his country.
These are two points of view British justice has to choose between.
A London court will have to decide whether to extradite Zakayev to Russia, which charges him with murdering at least 302 persons, including 2 priests, or not. His criminal record, however, contains far more offences, according to the dossier the Russian Prosecutor General's Office had handed over to London. Zakayev is also accused of forcefully imprisoning three persons, an attempt on a person's life and of inflicting heavy injuries.
The latter accusation is substantiated by the victim's evidence. While interrogating the prisoner, Zakayev shot his fingers off, one by one for every answer, which in his opinion was evasive.
Vanessa Redgrave is ardently playing the part of conscience of the Western community sympathising with Zakayev. It goes without saying that she would not like that adactylous palm to be demonstrated in public. This material evidence will not fit the image of Zakayev as an honourable artist fighting for independence of his small but freedom-loving country confronted with Russia's imperialist policy, the image she has been cherishing so much.
The British movie star is an elderly lady. However, she is not too old not to remember a historical fact: in the late 1990s that small but freedom-loving country did enjoy independence de facto. It was then called Ichkeria. The self-proclaimed republic's president was Aslan Maskhadov and premier Akhmed Zakayev. The latter changed his camouflage uniform of a militant for double-breasted jackets.
So what was going on in Chechnya in those days? In some estimates, killed were nearly 30,000 people, both Russians and Chechens. According to Sharia court rulings, people were shot dead from machine-guns right in squares, and that is not a propaganda product of Moscow. The shootings were recorded, and the video tapes were many times played on Western television channels, including the BBC.
Taking a profound interest in the Chechnya problem, although at the expense of her own career, Ms Redgrave must have seen those tapes. If not, she can easily arrange to see them.
Here is emerging an interesting topic for conversation with Zakayev at night with a cup of Earl Grey when he is back at Mr Redgrave's home from the court hearing. What was the "humanist" doing when people were in a most ruthless way executed on orders of Ichkeria's legitimate authorities? That is one question the good hostess could ask her guest from Chechnya.
Why did not he quit his post of premier in protest against the atrocities? Why did not he raise his baritone voice to protect human lives from the wahhabite inquisition? Where was his zeal with which he is discussing political reform in Chechnya today at meetings like those in Copenhagen.
It was the Maskhadov-Zakayev tandem that blessed the Chechen militants to make two major attacks at Daghestan, a Russian Federation republic neighbouring Chechnya. An independent Ichkeria was not their final goal. To seize Daghestan and form the Islamic Halifat was a step towards establishing a larger Halifat.
Vanessa Redgrave could as well invite an IRA member to stay with her and have a rest. A militant similar to IRA terrorists is how Zakayev is perceived in Russia.
Do they really differ at all? Is the difference between the ruins of Grozny's government building and the burnt walls of London's Baltic Exchange Irish terrorists blasted on April 10, 1992, that big? There is a difference. In the death toll. The London terror act claimed 3 lives, the one in Grozny - 72 lives.
However, the West does differentiate between terrorists, those acting in its territory and the others. A Danish court had released Zakayev letting him go anywhere he wanted. Those who seized a theatre in Russia, blasted government buildings in Chechnya and are threatening to blow up nuclear power stations are not really bad guys with whom Russia steeped in great-power mentality does not want for some reason to enter into negotiations.
In a few months, or even years, of legal proceedings Russia may be denied extradition of Akhmed Zakayev, "an immensely popular and respected actor". However, there is something London must know - that would prove that the West takes a double-standard approach to the problem of terrorism.
The West would thus make clear that Russia is a second-class partner in the international anti-terrorism coalition, which is asked for co-operation only when the West suffers from terrorists, not Russia. Moscow can, by no means, be happy about such a role.
A court ruling in Zakayev's favour would justify his plans for Chechnya as a seat of Wahhabism, a country whose residents can be easily shot down and the shootings can be recorded in cold blood, a country plotting invasion of the neighbouring lands.
However, even in that case Russia will not agree to negotiate with Zakayev and the suchlike. It does not feel like experiencing deja vu. Moscow by no means stands to gain from Sharia lawlessness and Wahhabite attacks. Political agreements on Chechnya's revival will be signed by peaceful Chechens. Not all of them have their fingers shot off by Zakayev.