Maskhadov Death - Disputable Reaction

Posted in Russia | 15-Mar-05 | Author: Dmitry Udalov

During a special anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya Aslan Maskhadov, leader of the Chechen separatists was killed. It is known that under direct order of Maskhadov, terrorist acts were committed in Russian cities. This included the siege of a theater in Moscow in 2002 that killed 129 and a school in Beslan last September that killed at least 339, where half of the victims were schoolchildren. The reaction ranged from excoriation to admiration.

Many political analysts, especially the Russian ones, found Maskhadov’s death to be the best if not the only response that Vladimir Putin could give to the terrorists. President Putin made a television statement just 30 minutes after he was informed of Maskhadov’s death. In his usual unemotional manner, he didn’t stress the importance of Maskhadov’s death. Instead, he emphasized the significance of a peaceful future for the Chechen Republic: "We have to build up our forces to protect the people of the republic and all citizens of Russia from these bandits."

Some Russian politicians and newspapers were even more enthusiastic than the Kremlin. In light of the coming 60th anniversary of the end of WWII, several politicians compared this recent special operation to the victory in the Stalingrad battle. In addition, they demanded that the federal authorities take more rigorous steps to combat terrorists.

International reaction was also quite extensive. The New York Times compared Maskhadov's death to the capture of Saddam Hussein: “His death is akin to the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, depriving insurgents of their political and symbolic leader, though with still uncertain effects on those determined to resist Russian forces in Chechnya, including acts of terror.”

Yet not everyone in the world reacted positively. Most of the world's papers blamed the Russian authorities for Maskhadov’s assassination. Their main concern is that Russia ultimately rejected the idea of a political settlement in Chechnya, as Maskhadov might have been the only person to negotiate with. The French paper “Liberation” named Maskhadov’s murder “an insult to all Chechen people.”

The official reactions were more or less mild. Most of the countries expressed hope for further settlement of the Chechen problem. Yet Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksander Checko called the killing of Aslan Maskhadov "not only a crime, but also political stupidity and a big mistake." The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with: “The question arises: Will Poland also regret in similar terms the liquidation of terrorist-murderer Shamil Basayev, who is on the United Nations' antiterrorist sanctions list, or of Osama bin Laden?”

Regarding Maskhadov, one thing is evident: The international community is still split on the major issue of the 21st Century. Not trying to defend any point of view in this dispute, I just want to warn that our debates and quarrels favor terrorists. Until we work together to establish a common comprehensive strategy, our fight against terrorism will simply be useless.