News of the death of Shamil Basaev has evoked mixed responses from around the world. I knew Shamil from the start of the first anti-Chechen war. At that time he was a fearless, tireless and ingenious commander, motivated by high ideals of freedom, independence and human rights. Although he accepted responsibility for the tragedies of Nord-Ost and Beslan, those directly involved in the hostage-taking were dozens of other young men and women.
If we want to seek an explanation, we shall have to acknowledge that these people decided to commit suicide because of the horrors in the life around them. The limitless cruelty of the Russians in Chechnya and its neighbouring republics was the main instigator both of Nord-Ost and Beslan. The crime of these people is that they mistakenly imagined that the Russian military machine could be halted if faced with the prospect of the public killing of thousands of their own civilian population or children.
There is absolutely no basis for the optimism of those who imagine that the death of Shamil Basaev will bring the conflict in the North Caucasus to an end. When that conflict began in the early 1990s nobody had heard of Shamil Basaev, because he didn’t exist. He emerged in the course of the conflict. The person we are talking about today was born in June 1995 during the events in Budyonnovsk. If the first war, which by any measure was less cruel than the present one, gave birth to Basaev, you can be quite certain that we now have hundreds of young people throughout the North Caucasus who value their own life and the lives of others no more highly than did Basaev. It is not individuals who have been radicalised, but generations. Violence is the companion of conflict, not its cause.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Zakayev at the House of Lords
Akhmed Zakayev, addressing Britain's House of Lords on July 18: