Maskhadov Denies Al-Qaeda Links

Posted in Russia | 12-Oct-03 | Author: Hadi Yahmid| Source:

PARIS, October 4 ( - Chechnya's elected president Aslan Maskkadov strongly denied on Saturday, October 4, any links between Chechen independence fighters and Al-Qaeda network, asserting Chechens are waging a legitimate war to liberate their land and boot out Russian troops out.

"Chechen fighters have always been distancing themselves from Al-Qaeda. We neither know Osama bin Laden nor take part in international terrorist attacks.Here in Chechnya, we are championing a legitimate war to liberate our land and win our freedom," Maskhadov said in an interview with Le Monde.

Maskhadov, who was elected president in Chechnya's only free presidential poll, admitted that he disagreed with Chechen leader Shamil Basayev in targeting civilians as a means to combat the Russian occupation of the small mountainous republic.

"Basayev had better use acceptable techniques against the enemy. I myself condemn targeting innocent civilians and have always been telling Basayev that he must fight an organized war against Russia employing diplomacy and accompanied by strategic and military tactics," he told the French daily.

But the popular president argued that Basayev applied the same methods used by the Russian troops against Chechen civilians "as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."

Maskhadov maintained, however, that Basayev has no relation whatsoever with the so-called international terrorism or Al-Qaeda.

"Chechen fighters are expected to obey orders and harbor grudges only for the enemy (the Russian military), so that they will be organized during operations," he said.

But in reality, Maskhadov admitted, this would be impossible in view of the barbarism and savageness of the Russian enemy against armless Chechen civilians.

Maskhadov further called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to "take a courageous step" by ending the bloody war in Chechnya to defuse the crisis and stop explosions rocking Russian and Chechen cities.

He asserted, however, that he would never accept but the unity and independence of Chechnya "since lying under the yoke of Russian federalism only means that war will flare up again."

Western Pressures

The democratically elected president underlined that the West could help resolve the Chechen crisis by pressuring Russia into "taking concrete steps towards ending this dirty war."

He also condemned western officials for condoning the massacres by the Russian troops against the armless Chechen people.

Maskhadov said the Chechen crisis could be resolved by putting into effect a draft resolution for the independence of the country prepared by his administration, noting "it all depends on the U.N. and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)."

On the military situation in Chechnya, Maskhadov said any neutral observer can easily see that the Russian "adventure" in Chechnya proved futile and brought a catastrophe.

"But Putin does not want to believe it and he just wants to buy time," he stressed.

On the Russian-sponsored presidential elections in Chechnya on Sunday, October 5, Maskhadov dismissed the process as "a charade".

"I can't help but ridicule such charades, because they will add nothing," he said.

Maskhadov dismissed as "illegitimate" the Kremlin-organized presidential elections, which have started officially last month, amid controversy and cries of foul play.

A leading Russian opposition politician on Wednesday, October 1, denounced as "a farce" the presidential elections, saying electors had been given no choice.

International media accused the Kremlin of having rigged the race for the sake of pro-Moscow Ahmad Kadyrov who is disliked by many locals and remains Chechen fighters' public enemy number one.

Four front-runners had mysteriously withdrawn or been ejected from Chechnya's troubled election, leaving Kadyrov as the almost certain winner.

Moscow's key objective was to sideline Maskhadov, who was elected in Chechnya's only free presidential polls, in 1997.

Chechen lawmakers have repudiated claims by pro-Moscow parliament deputy speaker Issa Temirov that they have signed a petition to overthrow Aslan Maskhadov from his post as president of Chechnya.