The Chechen president, Abdul Sadulayev, has said that Russia's policy on Islam in the Caucasus has made the Chechen war spread across the region. Speaking in an interview with the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, he insisted that the rebel government pursues peace, but said it wouldn't sue for peace with Russia. Sadulayev said that he disagreed with the hostage-taking tactics of commander Shamil Basayev, but praised Basayev's actions in the war. He also rejected the idea of the Chechen war as a terrorist war. The following is an excerpt from the interview headlined "A-Kh. Sadulayev:
'The Chechen people will never be Russia's slave", first published in the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper and republished on the Chechen website on 13 September. Subheadings inserted editorially:
In August 2005 the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria CRI, the amir of the CRI State Defence Committee, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, answered the questions of a journalist from the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, Wojciech Jagielski. Passage omitted: it was published in the newspaper on 9 September, translated from Chechen into Polish; a prayer; Sadulayev recalls the day when he was first made president
Newspaper - A religious figure now heads the Chechen Resistance. Doesn't this mean that the war is not just a war of resistance but a jihad too?
Sadulayev - There are two types of Jihad or Gazavat in the Muslim religion: one of defence and one of attack. A Jihad of defence is one that defends the fatherland from the invasion of an external enemy and liberates the motherland from the occupiers, establishing true freedom on its soil. That sort of Jihad has its place in Chechnya. This is not concealed from anyone.
The war in Chechnya is a Jihad, then, and we are not hiding this.
We have never deviated from this path and we will never do so. The term "war of defence" and "Gazavat" ("Jihad") mean the same thing, and we do not conceal that the war in Chechnya is a Gazavat.
Accuses Russia of crimes
Newspaper - As far as I understand, for the previous rebel Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov the independence of Chechnya was a means of guaranteeing security for the Chechen people. What does independence mean to you?
Sadulayev - We are ready to stop the war at any moment, if the one who brought it to Chechen soil stops military actions and frees our people who are being held by force. Declaring all young Chechen men and women criminals and terrorists, Russia is trying to put them in its prisons.
Eliminating those they can, and pinning big medals on the chests of the murderers of the Chechens. People who would be accused of genocide and crimes against humanity any other country become "heroes" in Russia. They are covered in glory and given all honours. We would agree to the participation of international observers in an investigation into the crimes of the Kremlin regime in Chechnya. If these criminals are not punished in a just way under the verdict of an international court, the Chechen Resistance and the entire Chechen people will no longer agree to a truce with the Russians because they are not punished. In this case, the war will return to us again and again. The Maskhadov conception of a security guarantee for the Chechen people is the bottom line for the Chechen people. This means the same to me and the Chechen people.
Newspaper - Maskhadov was constantly proposing talks. Are you also going to propose talks, or do you plan to wait for proposals from the Russians?
Passage omitted: Sadulayev says that Maskhadov was constantly proposing talks
Sadulayev - We share the path of peace proposed by Maskhadov as well, and I have the same opinion. But there is one "not": I am not in favour of constant offers of peace because the Russians will not incline to peace until they need it themselves. I am not ready to offer peace to the Russians all the time simply to please them. I reiterate once again, we are not going to give up the path of peace offered by Aslan Maskhadov, we have not changed our opinion on the matter. We are not simply going to call for peace with Russia all the time. We have already let the Russians know that peace is possible here at any time they want. But I am not intending to ask them for this.
Passage omitted: Maskhadov would have done the same
Newspaper - What do you think the prospects for talks with Russia are?
Sadulayev - As for the prospects for talks with Russia, this is the best way out for the Russian leadership - if, of course, it only would understand that. By starting the war in Chechnya and trying to conquer our land, which has never belonged to them, the Russians are destroying their own country too. First of all, they are destroying their international authority. The world has realized that the Russians are not doing the right thing in Chechnya. Second, the Russians have allowed their elite troops to be totally wiped out in Chechnya - the cream of the Russian army, as it were. They have dealt us quite a blow too. Neither are they allowing their economy to get on its feet; they are destroying its foundations.
Passage omitted: Russian soldiers have difficulty fitting into society when they get home
If the Russian leadership would understand all this, they would get peace and security from us. If the Russians want to co-exist peacefully with the Chechens, then we would be their most secure neighbours. However, the Chechen people, the Muslims living here, will never be the slaves of Russia nor of any other country.
Newspaper - The war continues. Do you see any chance of a victorious end
to it? If not, what are your aims in continuing it?
Sadulayev We cannot doubt our victory. It is enough to look at the situation which is taking shape in Chechnya for that. The Russians started this war, hoping to make a "local conflict" out of it. They have been pursuing their "wise policy" here, and as a result Dagestan has turned into a military front, as has the whole of the Caucasus. A Caucasus front has been organized including all the areas (sectors) of Ingushetia, Kabarda-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, Adygeya, Stavropol Territory, Krasnodar Territory and North Ossetia.
Passage omitted: repetition; says Poland has also suffered from Russia; talks about history of Russo-Polish relations
Relations with Basayev
Newspaper What are your relations with rebel commander and deputy prime minister in the rebel government Shamil Basayev?
Sadulayev - I have always had good, friendly relations with Shamil Basayev, although we do have differences of opinion on some matters. There is only one matter on which we have a difference of opinion, actually, which was current even when Aslan was alive, and we have never concealed that. That is that when carrying out special operations or sabotage Shamil does not rule out hostage-taking. Official Dzhokhar (former Groznyy) does not accept these methods of fighting the war. The CRI leadership does not see any use in this and considers that it does not aid the cause of achieving peace.
Shamil Basayev is a disciplined amir and mojahed. When it comes to the matter on which we hold different views, Shamil thinks that Russia's acts of cruelty should be answered with the same radical methods. Neither Aslan nor I have been able to convince him otherwise. However, this is not tantamount to our power being weak. It is merely a case of different views on how to resist the acts of cruelty of the Russians. The genocide that Russia has been committing against the Chechen people is shown by the daily murder of Chechen children, never mind other innocent victims. Around 50,000 Chechen children have been killed in Chechnya to date. The whole world grieved a lot over the murder of 200 children in Beslan. I call upon all right-thinking people who have even the slightest powers of human reasoning to show this sort of sympathy for the 50,000 children killed in Chechnya, and also the 200,000 men and women who have died as a result of Russian aggression. The absence of such sympathy among the international community is what provoked Beslan. This callousness gave birth to the genocide of the Chechen people, which led to Nord-Ost Moscow theatre hostage-taking, Beslan and so on. There is only one way of closing this vicious circle: Russia should stop the genocide of the Chechen people.
We have never sunk to the level of the Kremlin and we don't want that.
Newspaper Isn't your position complicated by the fact that Basayev attacks civilian facilities?
Sadulayev We draw a clear distinction between civilian facilities and civilian facilities of a military nature. This means first of all the buildings of the puppet administration (semi-civilian facilities), Interior Ministry facilities, Federal Security Service facilities and military facilities.
Newspaper - Don't Basayev's deeds damage the Chechen Resistance's international image?
Sadulayev We can't take a single-minded view of what Basayev does. Shamil Basayev is the leader of the most important committee in the State Defence Committee - the military committee. He coordinates with the commanders of fronts and sectors to agree operations attacking only the occupiers and national traitors. We are very satisfied with these operations, and also with Shamil's work and with that of his amirs. This does not destroy the image of the Chechens. It is only when it comes to hostage-taking that our opinions differ; the CRI leadership does not approve of this. It is not only Shamil or me who creates our image, but the whole of the Chechen people, fighting the enemy and bringing neighbouring peoples to our Resistance. As we can see, the Russo-Chechen war has turned into a Caucasus war. If anyone does something wrong, the image of the Resistance does not suffer.
Newspaper - What do you think of terrorism as a form of struggle? Don't you think that terrorist acts make the Chechen war basically a terrorist war?
Sadulayev - Terrorism is not acceptable for Muslims or for Islam.
Now that the enemy has taken up arms against us, the Almighty permits us to keep the enemy in fear. As for terrorism, such as killing civilians, if we accepted that doctrine we would not have protested from the start against the killing of our civilians. It would have been easier for us not to spare their civilians in retaliation.
Russia is systematically killing the civilian population of Chechnya, although we have warned it: do not touch our civilians, because then some Chechens will respond with appropriate measures.
What the Chechen Resistance does, then, does not fall into the
definition of "terrorism". The military actions of the Chechens are not acts of terrorism and never will be.
Newspaper - What is the role of Islam in the Caucasus during the war? Do you support links or cooperation with other Caucasus republics, which will turn the Chechen war into a Caucasus war?
Sadulayev - The role of Islam in the Caucasus is huge. The Muslim population is in the majority here. Since we Chechens are surrounded by friendly Muslim people, there are friendly traditions and kinship links between us. The people of the Caucasus have always been good guests for each other.
Passage omitted: on wars during the Russian empire and Russians and Soviets destroying Islamic literature
Although the Russians have stopped being called Communists, atheists and Communists are still in power in Russia. They have never believed in God, however large the crosses they hang around their necks. They will not believe in the future, either. The Chechens and nearby Muslim countries see Russia insulting their religion and closing mosques for no reason. In Chechnya itself, mosques are shot at intentionally, purposely destroying them. The kafirs infidels are killing young people - just because they are studying the foundations of Islam. They burst into their homes and say: "This one studied in Saudi Arabia; this one was sent by the Taleban." The Russians have done away with many Chechens who knew Arabic. They continue to do away with them to this day. This makes Muslims realize that they are part of the Islamic ummah community; the enemy itself reminds them of this.
Passage omitted: recalls that Russian troops were blessed by the patriarch
The people around us are Muslim people and kindred people. These links are quickly renewed when a great misfortune is taking place in Chechnya. These people take Chechens in, give them shelter, and help them as much as they can. The number of people among them joining the Gazavat, feeling close to their neighbours, is growing. That is why the war has spread from Chechnya to other regions of the North Caucasus, and it continues to spread to this day. Our forecasts say that Tatarstan and Bashkortostan will rise up next, because Russia's policy there is aimed at suppressing Muslims, and this cannot fail to end in an explosion of emotions among the masses.
Passage omitted: on the Russian empire; recalls Maskhadov's hopes for the future of Chechnya; says he prays; says he has learnt about Islam
Newspaper - What do the words "freedom", "independence" and "responsibility" mean to you?
Sadulayev - Freedom, independence and carrying out the work that has been given... ellipsis as published. Freedom means above all freedom of religion, freedom for my motherland, so that people can work freely, build themselves a house. For everyone to be able to build a life for themselves. For the people to be free to express their will, for the press to be independent from the government. For the state to be such that it is ready at any time to defend the freedom of its own people, for it to be always concerned about the needs of its citizens. I cannot think of any other concept of freedom.
Passage omitted: says the war would have finished long ago if the world had pressurized Russia; high oil prices have helped Russia in general as money has been coming in
Newspaper - Given the war and life in the underground, is there a risk of a split between the military leadership in the country and the political leadership outside?
Sadulayev - There is no such threat.
The Chechen people want freedom, they listen only to those who go down the path of independence.
Newspaper - Is there a risk of an escalation in the war leading to Russian facilities outside Russia becoming military targets?
Sadulayev - There is such a danger, but we are trying with all our might not to let the conflict spread to Russian facilities outside the Russian Federation. We will not allow this to happen where we have influence. Even if it does happen, it will be acts of provocation by Russia that is behind it. The Chechens are all over the world now, after all.
The information and analytical centre under the CRI president