Staunton, November 27 – Mairbek Vachagayev, who served as Ichkeria President Aslan Maskhadov’s representative in Moscow and now lives in Paris, says that the Russian government is employing the same means in Ukraine that it used in Chechnya 20 years ago, a conclusion with truly disturbing implications for the future.
Speaking in Kyiv on “20 Years of War in Chechnya: Parallels with Ukraine,” Vachagayev says that in Chechnya, Moscow attempted to stop the disintegration of the Russian empire and now in Ukraine it is trying to restore it, in both cases using the same methods (nr2.com.ua/News/world_and_russia/CHechenskiy-dissident-nichego-novogo-za-20-let-russkie-ne-pridumali--85503.html).
His remarks came following the showing of the documentary film, “Aldy: No Statute of Limitations,” which was made with the participation of the murdered Chechen human rights activist Natalya Estemirova. It details one of the many tragedies which took place during the Chechen war.
Russian forces decided to “cleanse” the village even though the war was over. Not one militant was found among the more than 50 people who were killed. Instead, all were peaceful residents, including old men, women and children, Vachagayev said. “There is no justification for such crimes, and there is no statute of limitation on them.”
What made the Russian actions in Aldy especially horrific, he continued, is that they had no military purpose. Russian forces had already seized Grozny, and there was no need to carry out such an attack. What happened, the Chechen activist said, was “for show,” an act of intimidation designed to terrify others.
The Aldy pogrom was also an act of revenge on the part of Russian forces who had been unable to defeat “a few thousand” Chechen fighters for so long. And what Moscow did there shows that Russia was animated not by rational calculations like the need for oil – Chechnya provided only one percent of Russia’s output – but by an irrational need for “greatness.”
“After the disintegration of the USSR,” Vachagayev said, “Russia was transformed from a super power into an ordinary country. But Russians wanted the greatness of being a successor of the former empire. Had they allowed [the Chechens] to leave, they would not have lost anything.” But “they were afraid of a precedent.”
By crushing Chechnya, Vachagayev said, Moscow showed that it would not allow anyone else to leave, and now it is extending that by trying to take back what it in fact did lose. And it is using the same tactics both in the recruitment of outsiders to do the job and then presenting them as indigenous people and in the application of force.