Russian fury over US television interview with Chechen warlord
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow 
Published: 30 July 2005

A diplomatic row has erupted between Russia and the
United States after the ABC TV network ran an
interview with Moscow's most wanted man, the Chechen
warlord Shamil Basayev. 

Russia was outraged that ABC had felt it acceptable to
broadcast such an interview and accused Washington,
and the West in general, of double standards when it
came to fighting international terrorism.

Moscow said the interview allowed a self-confessed
terrorist and murderer to openly threaten Russia and
publicise and even glorify terrorism.

"The fact that such an authoritative national channel
has acted as a mouthpiece for a person who is accused
of, and who in fact admits that he has tried to
achieve his own ends in such a way, by seizing
hostages and peaceful people, is very sad and causes
deep regret," Dmitri Kozak, President Vladimir Putin's
point man on Chechnya, said.

Basayev, who has a 5.7m bounty on his head, admits
that he masterminded just about every terrorist attack
on Russia in the last decade, including the Beslan
school siege, the Dubrovka theatre siege, the
Budennovsk hospital siege and last year's suicide
bombing of two passenger airliners.

America's most senior diplomat in Moscow was summoned
to the Russian Foreign Ministry for a dressing down,
while MPs called on the Kremlin to retaliate against
Washington through diplomatic channels. Russia's
ambassador to the United States apparently tried in
vain to block the interview's broadcast and Moscow
appeared to blame the American government yesterday
for not doing more to stop ABC.

The fact that a Russian journalist - in this case a
Radio Liberty correspondent, Andrey Babitsky - can
meet Basayev, allegedly in Chechnya, is also highly
embarrassing for Russia's FSB security service and
armed forces who have been hunting him for years.

Babitsky said Basayev and his men lived in harsh
conditions eating mainly "instant soups and canned
food" and slept outdoors on the forest floor. A
lean-looking Basayev admitted he was no angel. "I
admit I'm a bad guy, a bandit and a terrorist ... but
what would you call them?" he said of the Russians.
"If they are keepers of constitutional order and
anti-terrorism fighters then I spit on all those
agreements and nice words.

"The Chechen people are dearer to me than the rest of
the world," Basayev said, warning he had no intention
of giving up. "I'm making new plans. We're always
looking for new ways."

Asked whether Russia should brace itself for more
Beslan-style attacks, he answered: "Of course ... As
long as the genocide of the Chechen nation continues
... anything can happen."

Most controversially, he attempted to take the moral
high ground when it came to the Beslan siege, in which
180 children were killed. "In Chechnya and in other
places I use adequate and acceptable methods," he
claimed. "Neither I nor my mujahedin have killed
children. Children are not guilty. The whole Russian
people is guilty. "And if the war does not come to
every one of them personally the conflict in Chechnya
will never end."

Taus Djabrailov, a leading pro-Moscow Chechen
politician, said yesterday that the ABC interview was
proof that the West had not learnt its lesson about
terrorism: "(It seems that) even the tragic events on
the London Underground have not prompted the West to
realise what a threat people like Basayev pose to the
whole world." 


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