Johnson's Russia List
31 July 2001
Dementyeva: Putin's silence on Chechnya said to representative policy of
moving the war "to the periphery" of social consciousness
26 July 2001
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Irina Dementyeva, under the rubric: "OG's Version":
"The Campaign Is the Second, the Approach - Is the Previous One"
President Putin's silence with regard to the events in Chechnya has
lasted too long to seem natural. We have in mind not a literal inability
to speak, you understand but, on the contrary, the capability to
converse in a trusting manner with an entire hall of journalists for an
hour and a half and to answer 20 questions, including - about the color
of his poodles and, in the process, to not say anything articulate about
the war of annihilation. They ask him about human rights violations in
Chechnya and he responds about "the metastases of the radicalization of
the Muslim World".
They ask him, then why are cleansing operations needed in Assinovskaya
and Sernovodsk, and he says that there are people among the Chechen
people who support us. He displays decisiveness and constancy in one
thing: "They asked me, will I change my approach, and I respond - no."
The deliberate attempts of the court political technologists "to
relegate Chechnya to the periphery of the public consciousness" have
only succeeded in part.
What is occurring in Chechnya increasingly impacts Russia's economic
situation, threatens its political system, and will inevitably develop
into a problem of government. That makes the president's silence or his
talk about export performance even more incomprehensible. In his
country, he tasked Yastrzhembskiy, Manilov, and Zdanovich to set forth
at least the facts and at least the thoughts.
Even out-and-out PR personnel already cannot hear them without a sad
smile. So, sensing which way the wind is blowing, the procurators and
generals, colonels and liberal leaders, the Duma's ignorant young men
and inspired cannibals, who, however, think of themselves as
journalists, rush to be noticed.
So, the president said that the cleansing operations will continue. As
we all know, the number of refugees, who are saving their own lives, is
increasing as a result of the punitive operations against the Chechen
But do the official Chechen and federal authorities repeat that they
want to return all of the refugees to republic territory? We understand
that a portion of Chechen men are fleeing not to Ingushetia but to the
Judging by official information, the number of guerrillas is not
decreasing and Russian troop losses are increasing over the long term.
Do we really not know that the bloody verifications of the passport
regime promote that?
"We don't intend to operate as if we are occupiers. This is our own
country and that style is counterproductive. We understand that very
well and we do not intend to unleash any suppressions whatsoever. No one
needs them," - the Russian president said in a conversation with
In general, V.V. Putin is clearly more comfortable with the foreign
press than with his own press. And not without reason. The foreign
journalists are much better informed on the vicissitudes of the
Caucasian War than our public and receive many fewer signals from their
governments than our journalists. Although not without the fact... Poor
Chirac's silence at the joint press conference says a lot.
President Putin's information that it is as if the Russian authorities
"have actually encountered the physical destruction of the
Russian-speaking population" could have caused the Americans' emotional
reaction. We must recall that approximately 300,000 Russians were
residing in Chechnya at the time of Dudayev's accession to power. That
is according to the 1989 census. Of course, the Russians in Chechnya had
the opportunity to experience adversity, even without any war at all,
with the change of the national elite, just like the Russians in the
other regions of the former Union, but the physical destruction of such
a mass of people has not been confirmed by any data whatsoever. When
information on 21,000 (not about 300,000!!) Russians, who had been
killed outside military operations, was thrown into public circulation
with a reference to the Minnats [RF Ministry for Nationality Affairs and
Regional Policy] three years ago, on the eve of the introduction of
Russian troops into Dagestan, then Minister V. Mikhaylov was compelled
to refute that number.
Let's note that they are in circulation to this day, specifically, in
the State Duma. Has Vladimir Vladimirovich, certainly a man who is
capable of sensible views, turned out to be so lucid? Or is this the
export version? Has the president of a civilized country, who also has a
legal education, suggested that we consider the current reprisals
against the Chechen population as vengeance for what was allegedly
committed against the Russians? I don't understand.
So far no legal grounds whatsoever exist for what has occurred and what
is occurring in Chechnya. Without disputing the President's comment
about the arbitrariness that reigned in Ichkeriya until 1999, how can
one both understand and define today's events? Do we really not know
that the Russian side is employing Middle Age methods of impact on the
population on Chechen territory on a somewhat larger scale? And any
colonel or major and any sergeant or soldier, not based upon a court,
even a Sharia court, but based upon their own mood, can do whatever they
want to any female Chechen or Chechens. And the legal system that has
been nearly completed restored, in the president's words, is practically
totally incapable of opposing that. I don't understand.
Meanwhile, a sober assessment of today's stage of the war, including its
legal definition, is needed first and foremost for the President and the
country's entire ruling elite. Should we console ourselves with
propaganda myths? The war is not only depleting the treasury but also
the patience of forbearing Russians. The war is not only demoralizing
the Army, making it dangerously uncontrollable. The war is not only
drawing an increasing number of non-Chechen "individuals of Caucasian
nationality" into its orbit (not Chechens but Karachays are being tried
for the explosions in Moscow. Not Chechens but Dagestanis are being
tried for the defeat of the Moscow OMON [Special Purpose Militia
Detachment] column), threatening through a local, underground fire to
spread to the entire North Caucasus. The war, which consolidated Russian
society in the first stage, threatens the Russian state with
disintegration right now. The hopeless, interminable war will not
escalate into the Thirty Years or the Hundred Years War, like in Europe
during the Middle Ages.
There is nothing hopeful with which to console ourselves. Its cruel and
unscrupulous wolf boys are already breathing down the necks of the
current authorities. They promise a rapid and merciless end of the war,
and a rapid and merciless end of reform.
They can tempt a tired and impoverished Russia. Then that will appear to
be quite a bit to not only the [human] rights defenders and other
intellectuals, but also to the apolitical businessmen, and not only to
the flexible West, but also to the current residents of all of the
Russian kremlins and white houses. A lack of understanding of that is