Day: October 9, 2006

Anna Politkovskaya’s Last Interview

RFE/RL has a transcript of Anna Politkovskaya’s last interview, given to RFE/RL just two days before her murder in Moscow by an unknown gunman. In it, she talks about Chechnya’s Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whose 30th birthday fell on the same date as the interview, October 5. Her remarks give the lie to the official Moscow line that life in Chechnya is returning to normal, that torture, abductions and kidnappings by Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen forces are a thing of the past. An excerpt:

I want to say here that there were more abductions in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year… And those are figures just of those people whose relatives reported abductions and whose bodies were never found. I’d like to call attention to the fact that we talk about “individual cases” only because these people aren’t our loved ones — it’s not my son, my brother, my husband. The photographs that I’m telling you about, these were bodies that had been horribly tortured. You can’t reduce this to a small percentage — it’s an enormous percentage.

Kadyrov is a Stalin of our times. This is true for the Chechen people. Many of our colleagues have gone out of their way to make us believe that this is a small percentage, that absolute evil can triumph today so that in some hypothetical future this evil can become good. This is absolutely not true.

As for the admiration felt for Kadyrov, you know, the situation is as it was under Stalin. If you [hear someone] speaking officially, publicly, openly, there is admiration. As soon as you [hear someone] speak secretly, softly, confidentially, you’re told: ‘We hate him intensely.’ This split is absolute in people’s souls. This is a very dangerous thing.

Read all of it.

Russia Goes To Lebanon

Having for a time attempted (somewhat half-heartedly) to suggest to world opinion a twisted parallel between Russia’s bloody suppression of Chechnya and Israel’s fight to defend itself against Arab and Muslim aggression, President Putin has now switched to a different tack – he has sent pro-Moscow Chechen troops to Lebanon, to repair bridges and related infrastructure destroyed in the bombing. In the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick has an extended and perceptive analysis of the whole thing. (hat tip: grayp at lgf)

The Russian bear has awakened after 15 years of hibernation. Under the leadership of former KGB commander President Vladimir Putin, Russia is reasserting its traditional hostility towards Israel.

On Tuesday, Russian military engineers landed in Beirut. Their arrival signaled the first time that Russian forces have openly deployed in the Middle East. In the past Soviet forces in Syria and Egypt operated under the official cover of “military advisers.” Today those “advisers” are “engineers.” The Russian forces, which will officially number some 550 troops, are tasked with rebuilding a number of bridges that the IDF destroyed during the recent war. They will operate outside the command of UNIFIL.

Mosnews news service reported on Wednesday that the engineers will be protected by commando platoons from Russia’s 42nd motorized rifle division permanently deployed in Chechnya. According to the report, these commando platoons are part of the Vostok and Zapad Battalions, both of which are commanded by Muslim officers who report directly to the main intelligence department of the Russian Army’s General Staff in Moscow. The Vostok Battalion is commanded by Maj. Sulim Yamadayev, who Mosnews refers to as a “former rebel commander.”

With the deployment of former Chechen rebels as Russian military commandos in Lebanon, the report this week exposing Russia’s intelligence support for Hizbullah during the recent war takes on disturbing strategic significance. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the Russian listening post on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights provided Hizbullah with a continuous supply of intelligence throughout the conflict.

Much still remains to be reported about the impressive intelligence capabilities that Hizbullah demonstrated this summer. But from what has already been made public, we know that Hizbullah’s high degree of competence in electronic intelligence caused significant damage to IDF operations. Now we learn that Moscow stood behind at least one layer of Hizbullah’s intelligence prowess.

Moscow’s assistance to Hizbullah was not limited to intelligence sharing. The majority of IDF casualties in the fighting were caused by Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles that made their way to Hizbullah fighters through Syria. Indeed, as we learn more about Russia’s role, it appears that Russia’s support for Hizbullah may well have been as significant as Syria’s support for the terror organization. And now we have Chechens in Lebanon.

Read it all.

Politkovskaya and Novaya Gazeta – An Interview

The following interview with the principal editor of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper for which Anna Politkovskaya was working when she was murdered on Saturday, has been published in Chechen Society Newspaper. The interview was conducted in late September this year, before Saturday’s terrible event. I have translated the text of the interview, as it gives an insight into some of the background to Politkovskaya’s work in the perod leading up to her murder.


Our newspaper can be found everywhere in Chechnya

Recently readers of Novaya Gazeta newspaper have begun to say that they can feel some changes in their favourite publication.

“Something in Novaya has changed,” they believe. The changes that have already taken place and the changes that may yet come about in this newspaper, which needs no advertisement in the Chechen republic, were described to Russian journalists at the end of September at the Dagomys All-Russian Media Festival in Dagomys by the paper’s editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov.

Transcribed by Timur ALIYEV

What changes have taken place in Novaya Gazeta and what are they connected with?

We’ve gone public and become a shareholding company. This was announced at the World Press Congress which took place in Moscow in June, by Mikhail Gorbachev and his old friend Lebedev (Aleksandr Lebedev – banker, member of the RF State Duma ,ed.). Gorbachev and Lebedev presently own 49 percent of the newspaper’s shares, and 51 percent are owned by a group of the editorial staff. This is a consolidated package, and we don’t plan to de-consolidate it.

Why Gorbachev, exactly?

I greatly respect Gorbachev as a human being. He was one of the few leaders of the country who earned nothing from it. And it’s good that Lebedev is there, who can help him to realize various philanthropic projects.

Russia is probably the only country in the world where civil servants have become the middle class (mainly on bribes). We were talking to Satarov (Georgy Satarov – President of the Indem Regional Fund, which engages in projects on the fight with corruption – ed.), who said that although the number of bribes in the latest Russian Parliament was reduced, their value increased (to 50,000 dollars on average).

Gorbachev is also convenient because he is practically one step away from almost any prominent figure in the world. For example, he can call up Bill Gates and suggest he should give an interview for the paper.

What else has going public brought to Novaya Gazeta?

Starting next year we’re going over to colour. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the paper will come out as usual, but the Saturday issue will be in colour. There will also be a TV show. Actually, in the present size of the paper there isn’t room for all the material we get – so many are the people who bring us their pain and suffering.

What is the present size of your paper’s readership?

Our readership is two million (federal issue, regional issues and Internet site). And these are all people out of the ordinary, whose contributions to the newspaper’s Internet forums are sometimes more intelligent than our regular experts. And we really want to keep this readership for ourselves, and our newspaper for this readership.

For the past two years our circulation has remained more or less static: 151,000 for the federal issue, about half million regional supplements, 70,000 for the daily Internet readership. But during this time the general circulations of the other newspapers has fallen by 20-30 percent, while ours has remained the same. And the price hasn’t changed, either. A few years ago we reduced it from 9 rubles to 7 rubles. It’s true that those “jackals” sell it for 14-15 rubles.

Mail of course kills a newspaper. A mail subscription to the newspaper costs more than selling it by single copies. In Russia the distribution networks are being bought up by Russian Aluminium, and in Moscow just about everyone is buying up everything, though it’s mainly the special services who are doing it.

Why does one constantly get the feeling that there’s a “split” in Novaya Gazeta?

There are two tendencies in the newspaper. I favour “free breathing”, articles on light subjects. But other of our colleagues consider that that’s not why people read us, and therefore we mustn’t waste pages on those articles. I agree with that point of view, but I don’t want to support it.

But on the whole there’s a generational shift of generations going on in the paper. That is bound to go away. People don’t write the same way any more.

I will gradually move over to the side of the rarities. A new generation will come along. Even now one of our deputy editors is 24, the other is 26. There are departmental heads who are 23, or 30. They even think in a different way.

Anna Politkovskaya complains about you. She says you refuse to publish her material about Chechnya. What are the future prospects for “Chechen” articles, and especially for Anna Politkovskaya’s material in Novaya Gazeta?

Politkovskaya complains about me, on the radio, too, and it’s true. I’ll explain why. She brings me a text that reads more or less like this: “Early in the morning armoured personnel carriers manned by bloody Kadyrovite hangmen entered Malgobeksky district and seized the peaceful guerrilla Ahmet, who is not fighting at present, but working as a farmer, took him to Grozny, and handed him over to the Oktyabrsky district commandant’s office, where he was tortured to death.” Then I say to her: Anya, we need to think more of who we are writing for.”

If Politkovskaya were to have her way, then the newspaper would look like this: Page 1 – Chechnya, Page 2 – Kadyrov, Page 3 – Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Page 4 – Kadyrov, Page 5 – Chechnya… and so on, all the way to Page 32.

I know that our newspaper can be found everywhere in Chechnya, it is sold and photocopied. People from Chechnya queue up for Politkovskaya But I tell her: You are not a Chechen Joan of Arc. You can’t save the entire Chechen people.

This year I have sent her on an assignment to Chechnya only twice. That’s all I would let her do. But in my absence she “extorted” a signature from my deputy Sergei Sokolov. Then she calls me from there and says with malicious glee: “I’m in Chechnya”

But that’s Politkovskaya. I once said to her: “That’s not a car you parked just now, it’s a broomstick.”

I usually say to Politkovskaya: Chechnya doesn’t exist, forget about it. There have been elections there, a referendum. It’s all legitimate now. OK, the falsification at the elections was 30 percent. But no one’s going to court about it. No one’s saying anything against Kadyrov. But they come to Novaya Gazeta, to Politkovskaya, to complain. That’s not right, and we will change this.

[Yulia] Latynina has just written an article, she went and spent a whole day with Prime Minister Kadyrov. And it came out interestingly. Apparently, she was penetrated by his machismo, and her material proved (unusually for Novaya) to be impregnated with a kind of lyricism.

We will change Politkovskaya’s profile. I’ve already told her: We are going to re-brand you. We’ll put her into the social sphere, on national projects. I don’t think this “broomstick with the energy of Chernobyl” is going to remain without work.

“Chechen society” Newspaper, # 21 (86), 9 October, 2006.

Lithuania Expels Russian Diplomat

Lithuanian prime minster Gediminas Kirkilas has confirmed that Lithuania has expelled a highly-placed Russian diplomat for espionage, reports. The diplomat was accused of having “tried to influence the position of Lithuania’s representatives in the matter of the resolution of the Russian-Georgian conflict”.

Georgia Won’t Accept More Cargo Planes

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has announced that Georgia will not accept more cargo planes of deportees from Russia. Another cargo planeload of 100 people is expected to leave Moscow for Tbilisi today:

“If the Russian authorities do not provide normal, passenger planes for our citizens, Georgia will not receive their cargo planes any more,” he added.

But spokesman of the Russian migration service Konstantin Poltoranin told Interfax news agency on October 9 that transportation of deportees with cargo plane Il-76 is not a violation of their rights.

(Civil Georgia)

N. Korea Nuclear Test

Via Stratfor:

Reports spread Oct. 9 that North Korea tested a nuclear device in the eastern part of North Hamgyong province at 10:35 a.m. local time. China has indicated it did detect a small underground test, although the South Korean military has not raised its alert level. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his government has confirmed there has been seismic activity from North Korea, although he has not received reports on its magnitude.

The U.S. Geological Survey detected a 4.2 tremor in North Korea, which is smaller than expected and not big enough to make North Korea an unequivocal nuclear power.

If a test did occur, the most immediate U.S. response will likely be a strong condemnation and a call for a U.N. mandate for sanctions. If there is no U.S. military response, Pyongyang will see that as an acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power.

Many questions remain, however. Even if this were a nuclear test, it is not clear that it was a weapon rather than a device. A nuclear device produces an in-place blast from a mechanism of indeterminate size and structure. A weapon can be fitted on a missile or on an aircraft, and is therefore highly compact and ruggedized.

China’s response will be hesitant. China does not seem ready to cut off food or fuel to North Korea, particularly before winter sets in. Beijing has deployed additional troops to the border, but that is to seal the frontier. Beijing will be angry, but its primary concern is to keep the North Korean people from spilling across the border into northeast China.

South Korea will, of course, suspend cooperation in Kaesong and Kumkang and will probably put its forces on alert. With the drawdown of U.S. troops in South Korea, the South Korean army is now the border patrol. U.S. military units remaining will have to go on heightened alert and rush Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to the peninsula. South Korea could deploy high-level officials to North Korea

Japan will work for U.N. for sanctions and Chapter 7 invocation. Japan also will heighten its military posture and increase diplomacy with China and South Korea in an attempt to show a united front against North Korea

North Korea will go on high alert nationwide. The military will assume a high-readiness posture, and the North Koreans will proclaim their entry into the nuclear club, using sanctions to tighten control and rally domestic backing. Pyongyang might quickly invite the International Atomic Energy Agency in to make its nuclear status “legitimate.” It will petition international bodies to accept the new reality.

In any event, North Korea will view the test as a victory. It will mark the acceptance of the government as a nuclear state. Further negotiations will have to take place under this new reality. North Korea cannot be isolated forever. North Korea has bet that anything less than a complete military invasion is a capitulation. Pyongyang will press for acceptance, similar to Pakistan. China and South Korea will be key; both desperately want to avoid any military action. They will end up negotiating with North Korea, finding a way to make the North comply with international regulations.Stratfor Premium members can access regular updates, in-depth analysis and expanded coverage on this issue by logging in at If you are not a Premium member and are interested in gaining full access to Stratfor, please click here to take advantage of our special introductory rates.

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Remembering Anna Politkovskaya

By Tomáš Vršovský

via Prague Watchdog

PRAGUE – I was with a British academician and human rights practitioner yesterday afternoon, discussing the price that human rights activists pay for their vocation when a friend of mine called to announce, “They killed Politkovskaya”.

The contract murder of a top Russian investigative journalist, who covered the Chechnya conflict and developments in the Northern Caucasus, took place on President Putin’s 54th birthday. This is rather symbolic in that it was Putin who at the turn of the century launched, along with the war in Chechnya, a campaign against the free media.

Anna, however, was not afraid of him. Last month I happened to talk with her about the threats she faced in the past, asking whether they had stopped. “Not at all. I’m still being threatened. I’ve just stopped talking publicly about them.” As to where did they come from, she said, “Chechnya,” adding that they come from Ramzan Kadyrov and his people. “It’s best that I not think about them, otherwise I would go crazy.”

In the past couple of years, Anna devoted her life to bring at least a bit of justice to the victims of murders, abductions, and torture – areas where the state not only fails to protect its citizens, but itself becomes the implementer of terror.

“Every day I receive three to five letters from Chechnya from people asking me for help. And I have to dispassionately select which are to be used in my reports and which must be ignored. It’s terrible, but it’s something I can’t do anything about.”

Sadly, Anna has paid the ultimate price for her job. This courageous woman, by telling the truth, induced fear in the powers-that-be. It’s a lesson that especially Russian journalists should take to heart.