Thursday, November 23, 2006

Anzor Maskhadov Interview

From Sobesednik (November 13, 2006) [my translation]

Anzor Maskhadov: I feel sorry for Kadyrov. He may be killed

Author: Rimma Akhmirova

My meeting with Anzor Maskhadov took place in one of the countries of Europe - on condition that its name should not appear in the newspaper.

“Don’t touch your phone. I’ll call you when you’re outside Russia.”

He called again from a number which, he said, “will soon change anyway”. And when I arrived for the meeting, Anzor was already waiting for me with a person who was either his friend or his bodyguard. We drove in his BMW 5-series to a café in the centre of town.


How did you end up here?

They’re trying to make out that I ran away from the war. But I left before the second war, in early 1999. I went to Malaysia, to study. Then the war began. Father tried to get me to come back, but I couldn’t. How could I go home, through all those checkpoints, with this passport which has the name Maskhadov on it?

Where did you study?

I wanted to enrol at the Islamic University. But for that one had to have a good knowledge of English, so I studied the language. But then I left Malaysia and travelled to the Emirates, Turkey, and then Baku.

Such a lot of moving about - was it because of safety considerations?

Yes. I still get strange phone calls - with threats, provocations. A strange young man called me recently, and said: “Hey, Anzor, how can I get over to our guys, I have my own weapon with me.” I said: “You’ve got the wrong number,” and hung up. But that call was from Moscow. Quite recently I had a call from Chechnya asking our family to return home. They even promised to meet us on the Daghestan border. But it was obvious what would happen next, I know those methods.

Why Europe? Wouldn’t the Arab countries and Turkey be more convenient?

No, there are more Chechens in Europe now than there are in the Arab countries. Though some European states are also making their rules stricter now. Anyway, it was in the Arab state of Qatar that Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated with a bomb.

You are the head of the family now. Are you working?

No. For me right now the main thing is to recover my father’s body and to bury him. We have even appealed to Pariarch Aleksy II to help us - all religions say that a deceased person must be buried, after all. We shall continue to pursue legal action for the return of my father’s body to the end. Though we realize that most likely it won’t be returned. They’ve told us it’s because he’s a symbol of the resistance, and people would gather round his grave. But it’s not a custom of ours for people to gather in crowds around graves - only relatives go there. If I could bury him I wouldn’t even tell anyone where it was. I’d be afraid they would dig him up. There have been a lot of cases like that. My uncle was killed - and we’re the only people who know where he’s buried. But the Russian side are still searching for his body.

Is your family a large one?

My mother, sister, wife and children are living in Baku at present. My case is being examined there just now.

Don’t you plan to return to Chechnya? You’re not under investigation and you aren’t on any wanted lists.

When we corresponded with the Procurator General’s Office about my father’s body, Ustinov said that he personally had no complaints about me. But I’m certain that as soon I go back they’ll pin something on me. They’d make a big show trial out of it.

Did you keep in touch with your father all those years?

Always. At first by phone, and later by email. Then he began sending me video messages by courier to any country where I happened to be.

You must have assembled a large archive in all that time.

Yes. But I don’t plan to make it public for the time being. All in good time.

Many Chechens are marching under Kadyrov’s flag now.

I’ll tell you a story: Shara Tulayev is often shown on television, because they sat he went over to Kadyrov’s side. What actually happened was that Tulayev went at night to recover the body of Aslan Maskhadov’s brother, my uncle, who was killed in combat, but the body was booby-trapped with a bomb. Tulayev got blown up, and when he came to in hospital, Kadyrov’s men were sitting at his bedside. They also amputated his injured foot higher than they should have. So he wouldn’t go off and fight again.

Are you and Kadyrov personal enemies?

I don’t want to talk about it. I feel sorry for him, for having chosen this path. God is the judge of all men. He may be killed, just as Kadyrov senior was killed. Possibly even by his own people.

But it was Basayev who took responsibility for Akhmat Kadyrov’s murder. and Basayev is no longer alive.

Basayev took responsibility for a lot of things. Even for things he didn’t do. That’s the kind of man he was.

People are saying it’s all over now. All the main leaders have been killed - Maskhadov, Basayev, Sadulayev, Yandarbiyev…

There is Doku Umarov (Ichkerian President - Ed.). The man the Kremlin deserves. He is also prepared to make peace if the Kremlin wants it, but Umarov is not as soft as my father or Sadulayev, his successor.

What about Basayev?

Umarov is even bolder than Shamil. The Kremlin has earned this enemy for itself. My father was murdered precisely at the moment when he had stopped the war for a month and had then extended that cease-fire for another month. But Russia didn’t want Maskhadov as the man who ended the war. In 2004 Maskhadov had a meeting with Basayev at which Shamil swore to him that he wouldn’t wage war against innocent civilians.

But your father made unacceptable conditions.

We are ready to yield, we don’t say: “Independence and freedom for Chechnya.” The main thing is not to give Russia the chance to start another war in 50 years’ time. We want guarantees of security for our people, and that is all. For many this is a purely commercial war. People have made very good money out of it. Men like former defence minister Pavel Grachev, Kazantsev and the rest of them. One day it will all become known.

People on your side also make money.

That money they talk of doesn’t exist.

What about the arms purchases?

I remember that in the first war, which I took part in, we could get a lot of ammunition in exchange for a bottle of vodka. Sometimes we were even offered armoured personnel carriers - BTRs and BMPs.

Things like that don’t happen now.

No, things like that don’t. But where did Basayev get the ammunition he was transporting when it exploded? He probably bought it somewhere in Chechnya or Ingushetia.

Only a small number of people are fighting now, and the war is practically over.

That was also said in 2002-2003. But then came the special operation in Achkhoy-Martanovsky district, villages were surrounded, the buildings of the FSB. The operation in Ingushetia was the same. Two or three thousand active soldiers are fighting. But today’s politicians and generals are indifferent to losses on the Russian side. The guerrilla war goes on. And it’s a hard war to win.

I’ve spoken to people in Chechnya, and they say they are tired of the war.

You’re from Russia, and they won’t tell you everything. So many things have happened… Kurchaloy, Shali, Atagi. I have it all on videotape. Some people were buried alive, some were blown up after they’d been tied together.

How did Aslan Maskhadov manage to stay hidden for so long?

In 2003 my father was living in Gudermes, not far from Kadyrov’s house. I even have a photograph. When it became known, Kadyrov was furious. Father wrote me: “Anzor, if you only knew where I’m staying… the personnel carriers pass only 2 or 3 metres away.”. He also wrote: “If a situation develops, I won’t let myself be taken alive.” It’s said they found a suicide belt on him. He mined every house he came to with explosives, so as not to be taken alive.

Why didn’t he blow that place up?

It was a different situation, there was a battle. The investigation said that one of his relatives fired at him. But that’s not true. I know what happened. They wanted to make it look as though someone from the resistance killed Maskhadov.

Is it true that there are training camps for guerrillas and female suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, and now also in other countries?

Why go somewhere else to train, if it can all be done in Chechnya, under actual fighting conditions? What better training could we get than the fighting we’ve been doing for dozens of years? The war has even taught our children how to handle sub-machine-guns. And that is the most terrible thing.

(Hat tip: Marius)
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