The Eurasian Politician - October 2003
Anssi Kullberg, 6 Oct. 2003
Chechens identify their national independence movement on one hand with the Baltic and South Caucasian independence movements, and on the other hand with the Sufi resistance against colonialism in the 1800s. Their goals did not include founding an "Islamic state", or impose the sharia, and they also did not threaten the stability of other Russian regions. The Chechens sincerely expected that the West would have supported, or at least understood, their aspirations of independence. After all, the West had also supported the liberation of (other parts of ) Eastern Europe. Why not Chechnya?
The lack of Western support and international recognition was compensated by the relatively open flow of information during the Chechen War I, and the relatively sympathetic interest and understanding for the Chechens' struggle for freedom both among the Western people, and among Russian democrats and liberals. When the first war ended up in the Chechens forcing Russia to give in and withdraw in 1996, and when, subsequently, the Chechens elected a moderate president in a democratic election, their disappointment was grave, when there was still no support. It seemed that after Russia's withdrawal, Chechnya was merely isolated, while Russia launched systematic propaganda war that aimed at replacing the image of the Chechens so far prevalent in the West - that of an honorable resistance fighter - with an image of "terrorists", "bandits", and "fundamentalists".
The destruction of infrastructure and the isolation of Chechnya increased the influence of radical Islamists, who had appeared in the region at the late stages of the first war. Russian propaganda and subversive tactics primarily targeted the national independence movement, whereas the Islamists were free to spread their propaganda from Arab countries, and even from Moscow. Islamists operating outside Chechnya, especially the Islamist Kavkaz-Tsentr, maintained by the former Marxist journalist Movladi Udugov, who followed the Chechen Islamist leader Shamil Basayev's line, could monopolize a large part of external Chechen information, although it was often in deep contradiction against the line of the Maskhadov government (echoed in Chechenpress). The actual independence movement of Chechnya still considers the West as its most important hope and ally.
In other words, the development that has taken place in Chechnya, is much sadder than what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo, and resembles more the development which took place in Afghanistan when the West had lost all its interest in the region, and which has partly taken place in Kashmir, when the West has preferred to see the conflict as just a dispute between India and Pakistan, while the moderate separatists have been isolated. Radical Islamism and international terrorism were rooted in Afghanistan and Kashmir as a result of war and occupation. The same has been happening in Chechnya, although there is still no clear connection between Chechen acts of terrorism, and international terrorism.
The influence of radical Islamism is now clearly visible in the rhetorics of Basayev and his allies. For example, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism have appeared in their rhetorics in the recent years. Such ideas would be completely absurd from the point of view of the national independence movement and Sufi tradition. So far, the only impact of radical Islamism on the actual independence movement has been the fact that as Maskhadov's government has remained isolated in the second war, it has been forced to accept and tolerate Basayev and the jihadists aligned with him, because they fight against the common enemy, Russian occupation. Simultaneously, the representatives of Maskhadov's government have signaled to the West that if only Russia would be pressured to a cease-fire and withdrawal of its troops, Maskhadov's government would agree to expel the Islamists from Chechnya.
The internal power struggle between national independence movement and radical Islamists explains the hostage dramas and acts of terrorism, connected with the Chechen conflict, at least as much as the motivation of influencing the enemy. The leader of the Chechen Islamists, Shamil Basayev, has been in opposition against Maskhadov ever since he lost to the latter in the free presidential election in 1997.
Also in the other conflict areas of Eurasia, like in Kashmir and Kosovo, moderate nationalists have usually triumphed in all free and democratic elections, enjoying clear support of the population, while radical Islamists have possessed "minor voting power, moderate street power, and disproportionate firepower". Even with marginal amount of men, the radicals have been able to monopolize publicity, especially towards the West and the Middle East, which has been largely helped by the tendency of the Western media to exaggerate all those phenomena that appear "exotic", alien and threatening to them, especially when dealing with Muslims. This has greatly contributed to the ability of the radical Islamists to gain reputation and attraction among the frustrated youth throughout the Islamic world. Simultaneously, this way of expressing things has also greatly benefited the propaganda of the occupier states, because it has marginalized the moderate independence movements and associated separatism as such with terrorism.
Chechnya was full of internal tensions already during Djokhar Dudayev's period and in the Chechen War I, and Russia sought to exploit them maximally and in every opportunity, by arming every rebel movement that confronted Dudayev, and even providing the rebels with Russian troops in civilian disguise.
Boris Yeltsin made a failed attempt to overthrow Dudayev and to overrule the Chechen declaration of independence as early as in 1991, by sending his troops to Vladikavkaz and to the borders of Chechnya. In November he attempted a coup d'état against Dudayev with Russian paratroopers. However, all the attempts failed and according to many estimations, Dudayev already had more than 70'000 Chechen youths in arms. In 1992, Russia attempted overthrowing Dudayev with the Ministry of Interior's troops, and with the KGB, again failing.
Next, Russia tried organizing and supporting rebel movements against Dudayev, for which purpose professional criminals, released from Russian prisons, were used. The best known example of them was Ruslan Labazanov, who had sut 15 years in Soviet prisons, but who had also shortly served as a bodyguard to Dudayev. Same kind of background was possessed by another rebel leader, Bislan Gantemirov, who was a former Soviet militiaman, shortly served as a bodyguard to Dudayev, but then founded an opposition Islamist party before starting to openly work for Russia. After the first war, Gantemirov, who had become useless, was imprisoned in Russia for embezzlement, until Putin ordered his release and appointed him to lead a new rebellion in the second war, this time against Maskhadov.
In 1994, Russia started direct action against Dudayev, first putting together the scattered pro-Moscow and anti-Dudayev groupings, arming them, and financing the founding of an "interim government" in the Nadterek district, which is the most Russified area of Chechnya. Leaders of the rebellion were sent from Moscow: the former communist leader Umar Avturkhanov, who had been sacked for corruption charges; the former State Duma chairman Ruslan Hasbulatov, who had defied Yeltsin in the previous autumn; and the gangster Labazanov to head the armed troops. The "opposition forces" of Avturkhanov's rebellion, who were captured by Dudayev's troops, proved to be Russian soldiers in civilian cloths.
Also Labazanov's rebellion failed totally, whereas Dudayev succeeded in rising a huge demonstration in his support on 25th August. In early September, he defeated all the rebel groupings and the rebellion was finally crushed in the Argun battle on 5th September, 1994. Russia then started a fierce propaganda war, and employed heavier weaponry. In late November, the "rebels" again invaded, this time with 40 Russian military helicopters, among other new weaponry. However, Dudayev defeated them again, and the rebels lost six tanks, 350 rebel troops were killed, and 70 captured by the Chechens, among whom 21 proved Russian soldiers. In the turn of November and December, Russia finally started a full-scale invasion to Chechnya, when all the attempts to use indirect and subversive methods had failed.
Still for most of 1995, Islamism had been an alien phenomenon in Chechnya, and the rebel attacks against Dudayev had rather represented Soviet-styled communists and paid gangster groups, as long as they had anything at all to do with Chechens. Radical Islamism appeared in Chechnya much later than in Uzbekistan (1991), which was strictly controlled by the communist leader Karimov, and also later than in Russian-controlled Dagestan. This suggests that the de facto independence of Chechnya (1991-1994) certainly did not increase the spread of radical Islamism, and it did not destabilize the Caucasus region. The Chechen nation was fighting amazingly united in the first war, and the heroic myths of the Sufi resistance and the traditional sense of honor were very strongly alive, as it can be learned from all the eye-witness accounts on the Chechen War I published in the West.
Little by little, however, Islamism started to pour into Chechnya, too. First it arrived with the immigrating diaspora Chechens from the Middle East, mostly from Turkey and Jordan. Usually also these people were not Islamists when they arrived, but according to the Polish-Finnish researcher Zofia Grodzinska-Klemetti, who has worked on field research in the area for long periods, it was the shock caused by the scarves that the Soviet system had left in Chechen landscape and culture - gloomy concrete suburbs, Russification, alcoholism, poverty, atheism, ignorance of Islam and of Islamic literature, etc. - that upset the immigrants, often resulting the reaction that they seized Islam more tightly.
Chechens, too, were more free to travel and observe with their own eyes that Russian colonialism had hardly brought about anything positive in the Caucasus. Besides of the consciousness of the genocide and destruction of their cultural heritage by Russia, people became increasingly aware of the destruction of religion and values that the Soviet Union had imposed. Isolation of the republic by non-recognition prevented the Western and democratic values to fill the vacuum, as e.g. in the Baltic countries. In other words, both Russian policy of hostility and Western policy of neglecting and isolation contributed to the opportunity given to the Islamists.
A more significant Islamist influence arrived by Arab agents, who saw Chechnya as a new opportunity for jihadism - to spread Wahhabi Islamism and to uproot Sufi "heresy" from the Caucasian culture. A country in war could not simply dismiss it, when somebody was bringing money, which could be used to gain more weapons for the struggle. However, most of the funding for the Chechen guerrilla war came from business (both legal and illegal) taking place in Chechnya, and partly from the diaspora, whereas the weapons were usually got from Russia - by stealing, bribing, or directly buying.
Besides of diaspora Chechens from abroad, also small numbers - probably some dozens - of volunteer mujahids came to Chechnya. They were mostly Arabs, who had participated in the Afghanistan War. One of them was a Saudi Arabian radical Islamist called Samir bin Salih bin Abdullah al-Sweleim, who adopted the nom de guerre Amir ibn al-Khattab. Khattab arrived in the North Caucasus only in 1995, and his Chechen contact and protector was Shamil Basayev. Khattab's origin and previous doings have remained mysterious and covered by many camouflages. For instance, how did he communicate with Basayev and his men, who did not speak Arabic? Did Khattab know Russian? Various rumors tell that besides Afghanistan, he had fought in Tajikistan and even in Abkhazia, and later he lived among the Islamists in Dagestan, where he also married an Avar woman.
Basayev had served in the OMON forces in the Soviet times. The Basayev brothers participated, among the Soviet troops, the fighting of the TV tower of Vilnius, against the independence movement of Lithuania. As young hotheads, Shamil and his brother Shirvani Basayev had joined the Russian military intelligence GRU in the Abkhaz War against Georgia, although Georgia was the only state around that favored independent Chechnya. To the first Chechen War, Shamil Basayev went as a more mature nationalist Chechen patriot. Then, however, having acquainted with Khattab, and especially having lost the presidential election to Maskhadov, Basayev started to define himself as an "Islamic Che Guevara", and he announced he was opposed to both "Russian imperialist colonialism" and "nationalism" of the Chechen leaders Dudayev and Maskhadov.
In summer 1995, Basayev, together with a Chechen guerrilla unit, performed a partisan raid to the Russian town of Budyonnovsk. There, the original targets of the operation were military: a Russian military base, police station, and communications center. When removing, Basayev's men took hostages and fortified into the hospital of Budyonnovsk. Russia reacted with heavy use of force; the troops of the Ministry of Interior killed numbers of innocent hostages, along with a German reporter, but Basayev and his men could safely return to Chechnya. Although the official leadership of Chechnya condemned the raid, it proved a success for Basayev, since it forced Russia to start negotiations. Basayev succeeded in what the moderate attempts of the Chechen leaders had failed. His reputation in Chechnya grew up.
In January 1996, Basayev was imitated by a Chechen commander, Salman Raduyev, who was considered as even more radical than Basayev. Together with a guerrilla band of about one hundred men, Raduyev attacked the airport of Kizlyar, in Dagestan, and they destroyed some Russian helicopters. Copying Basayev, also Raduyev's men took hostages by removal, and fortified in the hospital of Kizlyar. The next day, their flight went on by bus towards Chechnya, but was cut in the village of Pervomaiskoye. Russia ended up shelling the village with missiles, killing numbers of innocent civilians, but still letting Raduyev and most of his men flee to Chechnya. Once again, the radicals managed to show to the Chechen public that only extreme actions could influence Russia in their favor.
In April 1996, there happened something, which proved decisive for radical Islamism to gain foothold in Chechnya: The Russians succeeded in killing the secular President Dudayev with a missile. Vice President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev then became the interim president. Yandarbiyev was a former nationalist poet and author of children's books, but at the late stages of the war, he had become increasingly interested in Islamism, probably influenced by Basayev and his men. Another civilian, who had belonged to the Dudayev administration, but who turned into an Islamist, was Movladi Udugov, a former editor-in-chief of a communist newspaper, who had been serving as Dudayev's minister of information.
During the short period that Yandarbiyev was heading Chechnya, before the free election, a lot happened. Yandarbiyev agreed with the Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on a cease-fire, but it did not hold. Only the Chechens' amazing achievement of liberating Grozny overcame Russia so that General Aleksandr Lebed, whom the Kremlin had sent to solve the problem with Chechnya, agreed with the Chechen Commander Aslan Maskhadov on peace, and in August 1996, Maskhadov and Lebed signed the Hasavyurt Treaty, which finally ended the war.
The Hasavyurt Treaty was followed in May 1997 by the Moscow Peace Treaty, where Russia engaged itself to not use violence or threat of violence to solve the Chechnya dispute. Russia also recognized Maskhadov as the legitimate president of Chechnya. Decision on the international status of Chechnya was postponed to 2001, but the Chechens managed to get Russia to bind itself, by the Treaty, to "maintain the relations between Russia and Chechnya according to the generally recognized principles and norms of international law". Many jurists have since considered this to have meant recognition for the Chechen independence de facto.
Between the treaties of Hasavyurt and Moscow, a free and democratic presidential election was arranged in Chechnya, observed by, among others, Western and OSCE observers. All the 16 presidential candidates supported uncompromising independence of Chechnya, but the Kremlin decided to consider Maskhadov acceptable, because they already had experience of negotiating with him, and it was believed that he could later agree on some kind of a compromise, where Chechnya would have accepted an autonomous status lower than internationally recognized independence. The moderate candidate Aslan Maskhadov indeed won the election clearly with 59 per cent of the votes, while Shamil Basayev came second with 23 per cent of the votes. The vice president in power, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, got only 10 per cent of the votes. Maskhadov emphasized in his campaign that his goal had all the time been achieving the independence without a war, "unlike the emotional and categorical Dudayev". Maskhadov did not disagree with Dudayev on his goals, but considered Dudayev to have failed to avoid the war with Russia. Basayev, in his campaign, accused Maskhadov for willingness to compromise with Moscow.
The Russian minister of foreign affairs, Yevgeny Primakov, warned Yeltsin seriously, that the Chechen independence would now seriously loom also de iure, because Chechnya would receive growing international understanding after the presidential election, which had taken place well and in accordance with democratic principles, resulting that Chechnya now had a leader that seemed not only legitimate and recognized but also moderate and very sensible. Primakov advised that Russia should now posit as many "obstacles" on the way to Chechen independence as possible. Yeltsin followed the advise by threatening the Western countries that Russia would cut all diplomatic relations with any state, who would recognize the Chechen independence. Besides, Russia spread rumors that Maskhadov was willing to negotiate on remaining as a part of the Russian Federation. Maskhadov rejected these rumors with anger, but they again contributed to the domestic support for the radicals, and caused suspicion against Maskhadov among some Chechen commanders.
Moscow also started to exploit the 23 per cent support Basayev had received. Moscow advocated the integration of Basayev and his Islamist allies into the Maskhadov administration. Boris Berezovski, an influential grey eminency of Yeltsin's time, announced that he already maintained contacts with both Basayev and Raduyev for this purpose. According to Cem Oghuz, a researcher of the Bilkent University of Ankara who has studied the relations between the Maskhadov and Yeltsin governments, incorporating Basayev in the Maskhadov administration meant for the Kremlin "an important step forward in the strategy towards gradual re-integration of Chechnya to the federal center". Either Moscow hoped this would make Basayev to engage himself to the expected line of concessions by Maskhadov, or even more probably, Moscow hoped that the increase of the Islamists' influence would finally drive Maskhadov so much into trouble that he would have to take backing from Moscow. [In other words, they hoped Maskhadov to become a Kadyrov.]
Maskhadov's main line was saving the independence of Chechnya, but he was also willing to conciliation (unlike Dudayev), and so he accepted the incorporation of the Islamists in his administration. Consequently, Basayev got a minister post, like did also three other radical commanders, Aslan Ismailov, Aslanbek Abdulhajiyev, and Ruslan Gelayev. Also Udugov was given a position in the administration, although he was soon to align himself with Basayev in the opposition against Maskhadov. A sixth man in the government, who was rather unfortunate a choice for Maskhadov, was the wealthy businessman Vakha Arsanov, who had connections with the Chechen mafia of Moscow. Arsanov was made the vice president, although, according to the expert of organized crime, Mark Galeotti, the Chechen mafia of Moscow has been strongly against the independence of Chechnya, because that would have deprived them from their profitable business opportunities in Russia.
Russia did not get its will pushed through, as Maskhadov was unyielding in demand of full independence for Chechnya, although on all other fields he was ready for co-operation initiatives - for example, advocating Russo-Chechen co-operation in economy and struggle against crime. But as it turned out that Maskhadov would never compromise freedom of the Chechens, provocations started to destabilize circumstances in Maskhadov's Chechnya. Meanwhile, reconstruction could not begin, as Russia continued to isolate Chechnya, and the war compensations and reconstruction funds, promised to Chechnya in the peace treaty, mysteriously disappeared. Two bombs exploded in Armavir and Pyatigorsk, Russian Front Caucasus. Salman Raduyev was accused for them. Maskhadov started to demand Raduyev's arrest.
Crime flourished in these circumstances, and among its worst forms was kidnapping business. Most of the victims were Chechens, but also Russians and foreign journalists were kidnapped. The most important gangster leagues were led by the notorious kidnapper Arbi Barayev, whom the Chechen government had ordered to be imprisoned for the murder of three workers of the British Telecom; Salavdi Abdrazakov, and the Ahmadov brothers. To maintain the sense of proportions it must be mentioned that such instability and crime were not unique for Chechnya, but prevailed in all the Russian-controlled areas of the North Caucasus, too, and bomb explosions and kidnappings were common throughout Russia.
While Maskhadov was struggling to combat internal instability and crime without any support from Moscow, although he asked for it, for example for police co-operation, the Islamists could expand their activities and operate more freely. Yandarbiyev, who had been sidelined from the administration, left Chechnya, and later adventured in the Gulf states, Sudan, and even Taliban Afghanistan, searching for financiers and support for the Islamist opposition in Chechnya. Maskhadov's willingness for conciliation appeared to give in too much, and it gave much more space for the Islamists than had been given by Dudayev's erect nationalism.
Maskhadov's administration did not get any support from the West, either, which in practice meant that on the local level it was very hard for Chechens to oppose the activities of such wealthy Arab organizations as Sheikh Abu Omar's El Haramein or the "United Aid Committee of Kosovo and Chechnya". Although the Islamist organizations had the hidden agenda of spreading Wahhabism and founding cover organizations to infiltrate their own militants into Chechnya, they also financed schools, hospitals, and construction of mosques, which made it hard to say "no" to them. A wealthy Jordanian Islamist and veteran of the Afghan War, Sheikh Muhammad Fatih, founded boarding schools and orphanages in Urus-Martan, and started to finance Wahhabi proselytism. Islamist mosques were founded in Urus-Martan and Gudermes to compete with the Sufi mosques.
Behind Maskhadov's back, the Islamists started to found Wahhabi moral militia units in Chechnya. These, in turn, made the traditional Sufi taips and their commanders mobilize civil guards. Also the Sufi Islamic scholars turned against the radicals, when the latter became increasingly insolent by the economic support they were receiving from Arab organizations. The funding that flooded to the Islamists also enabled them to recruit more unemployed Chechen youths for Basayev's army, while the Maskhadov government was in trouble to pay his soldiers' salaries, or to run any kind of legal trade. The civil guards of the taips started to operate independently, and several conflicts broke out between them and the Islamists.
The Wahhabi threat turned increasingly serious, when Khattab founded training camps in the Serzhen-Yurt mountainous region in Southeast Chechnya. On these camps, the uneducated youths - mostly Chechens and Dagestanis, but also other North Caucasians, ethnic Russians, and some volunteers from Arab countries and Uzbekistan - were well fed and accommodated, but at the same time they were going through political indoctrination, including Wahhabi dogmas and Islamist jihadism, and they also received training for guerrilla tactics and use of explosives.
Maskhadov would have been willing to co-operate with Russia, to uproot both radical Islamists and criminal gangs from Chechnya. In 1999, Maskhadov officially asked for Russian help to expel the Wahhabis with a joint operation. For this purpose, he sent his close assistant Turpal Ali Atgeriyev to negotiate with Moscow. However, on Atgeriyev's third such trip to Moscow, the Russians arrested him. Atgeriyev was later released, but again captured when the war broke out. He died in a Russian prison in December 2002, to damages obviously caused by extensive torture.
The civil guards of the taips started armed operations against the Wahhabis on the initiative of the influential field commanders of Gudermes, Djabrail Yamadayev and his brother. Atgeriyev led another group attacking the Wahhabis. At the same time, internal Chechen criticism against Maskhadov's conciliation increased. Yamadayev accused Maskhadov of working for either Russia or the Islamists. Behind Maskhadov's passivity, however, there was not only his anxiety for Chechen internal quarrels, since these quarrels had already grown into open conflict, which could not be reconciled, whatever Maskhadov did. It is therefore evident that Maskhadov was indeed restrained by his relative military weakness, compared with those Chechen commanders, who had financial sources to recruit fighters. Maskhadov's military position was even more difficult, since he was certain that Russia was just waiting for that kind of an internal Chechen conflict to explode, and that Russia was preparing for a new invasion to Chechnya, or overthrowing Maskhadov.
Finally Maskhadov ordered to expel Khattab and the Arab radicals under his command from Chechnya. He explained this move by announcing that he considered Khattab as a terrorist. The Congress of Prefects of Chechnya assembled in April 1999, to condemn the attempts of the Islamists to impose sharia in Chechnya. Basayev and Khattab, with their followers, had already been expelled to the mountainous eastern area bordering Dagestan. There, the Wahhabis formed a new center in the area of Nozhai-Yurt. Basayev had been an Islamist for a couple of years already, but now he started to show more explicitly that he had fully adopted the Wahhabi version of radical Islamism, including the jihadist ideology.
At the same time when Basayev started his bitter opposition struggle against Maskhadov, the situation in Dagestan got tenser in 1998, and the internal power struggle had driven Dagestan's Islamist leaders to west to the Chechen side of the border. Together with the Dagestani radical Islamists, Basayev formed an alliance, Shura, which was directed against both the "nationalist" government of Maskhadov, and the communist leaders of Dagestan. This launched a series of events that was to lead to the second Chechen War, and to terrorism appearing as a part of the North Caucasian conflict. In July 1998, there was an attempt against Maskhadov's life, and soon after this, the Chechen government clashed with the Islamists several times.
The former Sufi mufti of Chechnya, Ahmed Kadyrov, who had participated the Soviet Islamist movement, and even declared jihad against Russia - to a great harm of the pro-independence Chechen leaders - but who had also occasionally shared good relations with Maskhadov, now broke up totally with the Islamists on one hand, and with Maskhadov, on the other. Subsequently, Kadyrov defected to the Russian side. Because he represented the "official Islam" in the Soviet times already, it is probable that he had connections with the Russian secret services, and this was his background all the way. Also some other former allies of Maskhadov were quick to defect to Russia, when the war clouds gathered above Chechnya.
In spite of this, Maskhadov and his political close circle maintained their pro-Western, nationalist and Sufi stand. Pro-Western Chechen leaders gathered around the minister of foreign affairs Ilias Ahmadov, and included for example Ahmed Zakayev, Ahyad Idigov, Lyoma Usmanov, and Roman Khalilov. Besides of them, also the more strictly nationalist "Dudayevites", like Usman Ferzauli, absolutely and consistently condemned radical Islamism, and they would probably have managed to make Maskhadov, too, adopt harder measures against the Islamists, were it not so that the Islamists possessed weapons and external support, which the pro-independence intellectuals did not have - at least not enough for wasting the resources in a civil war.
Among the most devoted opponents of radical Islamism in the Chechen administration was the deputy prime minister Ahmed Zakayev. Together with Y. Chagayev, Zakayev wrote a book against Wahhabis, published in Urus-Martan in 2000. The book was called "Wahhabism - the Kremlin's remedy against national liberation movements", and the Chechen authors of the book associated the Islamist extremists with the Kremlin's global pro-terrorist policy during the Soviet era, and the Kremlin's support for dictatorships in the Islamic world, like Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Libya. The authors considered Hamas, Hizbollah, Usama bin Ladin, and Illich Ramírez "the Jackal" to be creations of the Soviet policy, while the Chechens did not even know the Taliban or bin Ladin.
Majority of the Chechens supported the independence of Chechnya, but they were against the Islamists, whom they saw to drive Chechnya towards a new conflict with Russia. Also Maskhadov himself was very conscious of this danger. He accused the Islamists of being provocateurs, and in an interview with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Maskhadov told: "After the war I was tired and dreaming of rest, and so did the rest of Chechnya. But even then it looked like a new war would already be inevitable. With displeasure, I listened to the speeches of these politicians and commanders. Their speeches of holy wars, liberation of all the Caucasus, raising the green flags of Islam in the Kremlin itself...! I knew that everything was heading towards a new war." His worst fears proved correct.
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