020100 [ET] Chechens beam their defiance from the hills
- 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
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
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
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