Another item I recently translated for the Prague Watchdog (March 19):
Why can't they catch Basayev?
By Ruslan Isayev
CHECHNYA - From being the most odious Chechen field commander and principal enemy of Russia, Shamil Basayev is increasingly turning into a figure who is somehow unreal. It is now several years since the Russian special services began their hunt for him.
There have been many reports of Basayev's death, and there was even information that he had gone mad. All of this information was supplied by the Russian special services, which have thereby attempted to shrug off responsibility for the fact that they are unable to catch him, while at the same time hinting at their involvement in his illnesses and poisonings.
On several occasions Basayev has indeed fallen into traps arranged by the special services, but each time he has succeeded in slipping away at the last moment.
Basayev's luck gives rise to the most diverse rumours, not only among the people, but even among some law enforcement officials. And the rumours are appropriate, if we consider that during the last three years Basayev has been almost the only figure under whose command perceptible blows have been delivered to Russia's image.
These rumours include the claim that in 1999 Basayev and his forces left Daghestan under cover of Russian helicopters, and that his actions are coordinated by the GRU, the Military Intelligence of the General Staff of the Russian Federal Ministry of Defence.
Supporters of the version alleging Basayev's "protection" by Russian army intelligence refer, though without proof, to his activity during the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict, where he rose to the post of Abkhaz Deputy Minister of Defence, heading a voluntary contingent from the entire Caucasus.
It is asserted that Basayev was able to form his contacts with the Russian special services when Russia openly took the side of separatist Abkhazia, to which it rendered all its military aid.
There is also another matter: why are the Russian special services, in this case military intelligence, conducting this "dirty" game, and what are its purposes?
Some Chechen political scientists believe that there actually exists in Russia a so-called "plot of the generals", who are trying to weaken Russia to please the countries of the West, with the aim of securing a Russian withdrawal from the Caucasus.
Others think that Basayev is simply endowed with good fortune, and because of his brilliant military talent and wolf-like instinct remains invulnerable to his enemies. Not even a reward of 10,000,000 dollars has managed to trace Russia's terrorist No. 1.
From merely being a thorn in Russia's side Basayev long ago turned into a chronic illness for the country. But that is not the end of it. With more events of the same kind, the processes of this illness will become irreversible. The signs are already present.