New Basayev interview on Channel 4 (Britain) -Times
- The Times
February 03, 2005
We're going to do it again, says man behind Beslan bloodbath
By Nick Sturdee
Russia's most wanted man has broken cover for the first time since siege
THE Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the Beslan school siege last
autumn plans more such operations, despite his apparent remorse over the
deaths of more than 330 people — half of them children — in the North
In his first interview since that bloodbath, Shamil Basayev says that he
is in a state of shock over what happened, but blames the Russians for
precipitating the bloody end of the siege. Mr Basayev, Russia’s most
wanted man with a $10 million bounty on his head for numerous attacks,
said he is willing to stand trial for his actions, but does not renounce
his war with the Kremlin or attacks on Russian civilians.
The interview, to be broadcast on Channel 4 News tonight, was obtained
after months of negotiations through intermediaries. It was filmed by Mr
Basayev’s entourage at an undisclosed location last month and the video
given to a journalist in the Middle East.
Mr Basayev said that he originally planned to seize one or possibly two
schools simultaneously in either Moscow or St Petersburg, but lack of
funds forced him to pick North Ossetia, a “Russia garrison in the North
Caucasus”, and thus the root of all things bad in war-torn Chechnya,
with the ‘silent consent of (the North Ossetian) population.’
He says his intention was to offer the Russian leadership no chance of
achieving a “bloodless resolution” to the siege, forcing it to stop the
“genocide of the Chechen people”. He says he never thought the Russian
leadership would be willing to oversee the death of children, but says
that he was “cruelly mistaken” and that he was “not delighted by what
He claims that the collapse of the roof of the school gym was the result
of flame-throwers used by Russian special forces, not explosives placed
by the hostage-takers.
The bearded 40-year-old warlord, believed to be hiding in the mountains
of southern Chechnya, looks in good health, and speaks at length in
Russian. He sits in front of a banner proclaiming in Arabic: “There is
no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”. He wears a black T-shirt
with ‘ANTI-TERROR’ written in white Cyrillic letters, and explains that
he considers the Kremlin, not himself, the terrorists. He reads the
questions from a laptop computer, and cradles what he describes as a
six-barrelled grenade launcher, a trophy from a Russian base.
Mr Basayev denounces what he describes as the “bloody slaughter that is
raging in our land”, and cites not only the Koran and the prophet Adam
but also the Chinese sage Zheng He, Winston Churchill and even Charles
Mr Basayev states that he is “ready to answer before a court for my
actions, for my every step, because everyone should be equal before
justice regardless of the authority they hold, and of their position”.
He describes a meeting with his commander-in-chief and formal leader of
the Chechen resistance, Aslan Maskhadov, who apparently accused his most
effective lieutenant of going too far in Beslan.
Mr Basayev says he told Mr Maskhadov that he is “ready to stand before a
sharia court, and answer to it in all its severity if it judges I should
be punished”. He says that such a trial is not possible until the
Chechen war ends. He is willing to call a ceasefire and open
negotiations with the Russians, but only after the complete withdrawal
of Russian forces from Chechnya.
Mr Basayev states: “We are planning more Beslan-type operations in the
future because we are forced to do so.”
Justifying his attacks on civilian targets, he states: “We are at war
and we look at the reality, and not at whether the population has
weapons in their hands. We look at the reality of their participation in
“ People who approve of Putin’s policies, people who pay their taxes for
this war, people who send their soldiers to this war, priests who
sprinkle holy water on them . . . How can they be innocent? They are
just without weapons. Russian citizens are accomplices of this war, it
just may be that they have no weapons in their hands. Peaceful people
for us are those that don’t pay taxes for this war, people who don’t
participate, and who speak against this war.”
Mr Basayev’s interview is likely to deepen President Putin’s
embarrassment. The second Chechen war has raged since September 1999
when he was Prime Minister, and his pledge to crush the separatist
rebels helped win him the presidency in March 2000.
Since then the hostilities have become a festering wound for the
Kremlin, and despite strict media controls dissatisfaction within Russia
has grown. Events such as the Beslan school tragedy have caused a
profound shock throughout Russian society and have brought the
unresolved war ever closer to home.
The rebels, who assassinated Chechnya’s pro-Moscow President Kadyrov
last May, have attacked not just civilian targets. Mr Basayev claims in
the interview that they launched 15 large-scale attacks on Russian
military targets last year, including four attacks involving between 200
and 300 mujahidin.
# A rebel website reported yesterday that Basayev had ordered his units
to stop offensive operatons until February 22 as a gesture of goodwill.
The report, on www.kavkazcenter.com, could not immediately be confirmed.
LIFE AND TIMES OF BASAYEV
1965: Born in Chechen village of Vedeno
1991: Joins defence of Boris Yeltsin at White House in Moscow. Hijacks
aircraft from Russia to Turkey to raise awareness about Chechnya
1993: Fights with Abkhaz rebels against Georgia
1994: Bodyguard of Dzhokar Dudayev, Chechen separatist president. Leads
defence of Grozny against Russia
1995: Seizes hundreds at Budennovsk hospital, after members of family
killed in Russian raid
1996: Leads recapture of Grozny. Defeated in Chechen presidential elections
1999: Russia offers reward for his capture
2000: Loses a foot in mine explosion
2002: Alive three months after Russia announces his death. Claims
responsibility for Moscow’s theatre siege
2004: Claims responsibility for killing Chechen President. Accused of
masterminding Beslan school siege
The Channel 4 interview with Basayev will be shown at 7pm tonight.