Letter: Terror in Chechnya

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report "Putin gives Clinton an icy rebuff on Chechnya" (8 December) quotes a Russian general in Chechnya as saying that the actions of the security forces involve the "minimum number of casualties" both among Russian soldiers and the civilian population. This cynical claim has been proven to be false throughout this war and in the last conflict, when 80,000 civilians died.

Your editorial in the same edition, "The threat to Chechnya questions Russia's claims to call itself a democracy", was absolutely correct in defining these actions as "war crimes" - both then and now. In both instances the West and international organisations reacted timidly to the actions of the Russian security forces by refusing to define them as crimes against humanity, and continued to provide the Russian government with large-scale financial assistance. Western leaders continued to pretend that Russia was both a "democracy" and a "market economy".

In the meantime, we have learnt that the West turned a blind eye to the fact that most of this assistance was laundered abroad by organised crime and corrupt officials, while the same standards were not applied towards Russia as towards Serbia.

Surely the time has arrived, as your editorial suggests, to "draw a line in the mud and snow" by not only ending further Western assistance but also by suspending Russia's membership of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe and by placing Russia's actions within the remit of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.


Visiting Fellow, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies

University of Alberta, Canada