#4 - JRL 7245
The Guardian (UK)
June 30, 2003
Chechnya: an apology
Prof Peter Reddaway, London School of Economics:
On June 18 Tony Blair stated: "When we finally won the conflict in Iraq, some of the people who were still offering resistance were extremists from Chechnya." Since there is no known public evidence for this assertion, I challenge him either to produce good evidence or to make a full retraction and apologise to the Chechen people. It would also be a good if belated occasion on which to thank the elected President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya for his full-hearted support of the US-UK decision to invade Iraq.
On June 26 Mr Blair had a golden opportunity to criticise Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his presence, for the massively documented atrocities by Russian troops in Chechnya against civilians and combatants since 1994. He remained silent (Leaders, June 27).
The Chechnya war represents one of the longest-running crimes against humanity in today's world, with deep roots going back through 170 years of Russian invasions, massacres and wholesale deportations. To Chechens and Russian liberals, it is a classic anti-colonialist struggle for national independence. And as long as it drags on, democracy has little hope in Russia. Already, under Putin's censorship, the war can no longer be seriously criticised on any national TV station.
It's true that a few domestic and foreign terrorists are active in Chechnya. But let Mr Blair search his conscience: if he were a Chechen and had lived through the last nine years, would he have been able to keep these people away from such a desperate national tragedy? And whom would he have seen as the tragedy's source?