From a recent (Dec. 4) Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty interview with Norwegian public figure and human rights activist Ivar Amundsen, on the current situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus:
Natalya Golitsyna: Do you share Akhmed Zakaev’s opinion voiced recently at the ‘Caucasus seminar’ in London that ‘Russia has a vested interest in the instability in the Caucasus’?
Ivar Amundsen: Yes, I do. I think that this constitutes part of its policy in the Caucasus. Zakaev has also mentioned a very important point by saying that today Russia is losing its grip on Chechnya. This might sound paradoxical because Russia claims to have won the guerilla war in Chechnya. During the first Chechen campaign in 1994-1996 which claimed the lives of over one hundred people the Russian population of Chechnya numbered around three hundred and fifty thousand people. At the time ethnic Russians constituted a majority in Grozny. Since the second war which started in 1999 and which is still ongoing judging by the state of emergency still in force in Chechnya, the Russian population of Chechnya has gone down from about three hundred and fifty thousand to seven-eight thousand people. In other words, almost 98% of Chechnya’s civilian population have left the republic and the control over the situation in Chechnya is maintained by the army alone. This is what Zakaev meant when he spoke about Russia’s losing its grip on Chechnya. Today Ramzan Kadyrov is getting bolder and bolder in his aspirations to independence. There is another striking fact. There is an odd and secret alliance (a conspiracy even) between the FSB and the armed groups of Islamic fundamentalists hiding in the Chechen forests. Their leader Doku Umarov has proclaimed the setting of a new Islamic state – an independent Caucasus Emirate. According to experts, this move which could destabilize the situation in the Caucasus is being overseen by the FSB – in order to hamper as much as possible any solution to the Caucasus dilemma.