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020100 [ET] Chechens beam their defiance from the hills

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  • witold1
    Chechens beam their defiance from the hills By Marcus Warren in Troitskaya THE signal may be weak, but the message of defiance broadcast from the mountains by
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2000
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      Chechens beam their defiance from the hills
      By Marcus Warren in Troitskaya

      THE signal may be weak, but the message of defiance broadcast from
      the mountains by Chechen television is forceful enough.

      "Down with tyranny, victory will be ours, God is great," said the
      newsreader at the close of Sunday evening's main bulletin. The
      Russian military are bombing and shelling the last pockets of
      resistance, but the rebel republic manages nevertheless to beam into
      the ether morale-boosting news about the war, stirring videos of
      patriotic songs and documentary films.

      The glamorous face of rebel Chechen television is that of the
      unnamed anchorwoman, hair hidden demurely in a headscarf, who
      introduces the entertainment and repeatedly stumbles over the script
      of news items.

      "The defenders of Grozny are faithful to the precepts of Chechnya's
      first president, Dzhokhar Dudayev, who ruled that planes, tanks and
      artillery are the weapons of Satan," she announced on Sunday.
      "Warriors, grip your daggers fast and fight the enemy for at close
      quarters you have no equal," she said, apparently quoting from the
      late Gen Dudayev, killed by a Russian missile which had locked on to
      his satellite phone in 1996.

      Such tactics are of "profound wisdom" because they also allow the
      guerrillas in the ruined Chechen capital to avoid "barbarian Russian
      artillery", she continued. The fate of Gen Dudayev must serve as a
      warning to the staff of Television Ichkeria (the Chechen name for
      their homeland) but, so far, despite heavy Russian bombing in the
      mountains, the station has survived to broadcast for several hours
      every evening.

      Its output can even be viewed in the neighbouring republic of
      Ingushetia. The evening starts with images of heroism: a lone wolf in
      the mountains, the Chechens' favourite self-image, rare photos of the
      current president, Aslan Maskhadov, smiling, and ranks of
      clean-shaven soldiers in uniform looking nothing like the bearded
      guerrillas still holding out in Grozny.

      News read to camera provides the main fare, and on Sunday it
      included a report that the Chechen health minister was operating on
      wounded rebels in the capital, and a list of commanders leading the
      city's defence.

      Interviews with local people about the causes of the war and the
      centuries-long conflict between Chechnya and Russia are exchanges
      with no holds barred that pack a polemical punch few Western TV
      shows can match.

      "Many people blame the Jews for this latest war. What do you think?"
      asked the announcer on Sunday. Her interviewee was inclined to
      agree, but with some caveats. "Jews and Wahabbis" were the
      culprits, he said, but so were the Kremlin and Russian and Western
      intelligence services. Russia, he said, had been trying to destroy Islam
      and Chechnya for centuries and its accomplices among local
      Chechens were "scum, just like the 100 million-strong plague which is
      our neighbour".

      He did not appear to appreciate the irony of having to slip from the
      Chechen language back into Russian to denounce the imperialism of
      the Kremlin. In another stroke of irony, Sunday evening's programmes
      ended with a documentary about the 1979 Soviet invasion of
      Afghanistan made for Russian TV. The moral was simple enough: what
      the Afghans succeeded in doing in the Eighties, the Chechens are
      repeating now.
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