Monitor: Comment in Russian and American newspapers on the worsening conflict in Chechnya

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St Petersburg Times

the tragedy of the Russians' ham-fisted brutality is that they might have attracted the support of the majority of Chechens, had they only tried to work peacefully with Mashkadov on the expulsion of the extremist groups. Russia's impatience to act was understandable. Over the past two years, hundreds of Russian citizens have been kidnapped by Chechen gangs, and they have often been tortured and killed. This culminated in the radicals' attempted invasion of Dagestan and terrorist bombings in Moscow and elsewhere. Now, paradoxically, even as its soldiers are tightening the noose around Grozny, the Chechen capital, Russia is increasingly in a bind. Chechen nationalism cannot be suppressed for long. If Russia tries to keep the renegade province under its absolute control, it will merely create a gnawing ulcer that will waste away at Russian wealth and Russian lives. In the long run, the smartest thing for Russia to do may be to put Chechnya on the path to full independence. (Anatol Lieven) Russia

Novaya Gazeta

As the winter draws in closer and closer, the mood of the soldiers can see the deadlock, to them nothing makes sense and their is discontent in their hearts. The soldiers are now physically exhausted and morally sick. They cannot stand for a moment longer the inhuman conditions in which they are being forced to live and fight and which differ vastly from the initial promises and plans outlined in Moscow. The war should be localised and clearly outlined, or it should be stopped altogether. At the moment is has become far too dangerous for a great number of people who have nothing in common with terrorists. This war is making no sense whatsoever. And that is the only real truth. Russia

The Washington Post

The West seems to mimic every Russian claim about fighting for its territorial integrity against "terrorists" and "bandits," instead of calling what is happening in Chechnya by its name: genocide. The territorial integrity issue should not be treated as if it were sacred. Chechnya, like some 17 other major non-Russian areas, is not an integral part of Russia, but one of many units of the Russian Federation. Ultimately, the Russian action in Chechnya is meant to send a message that Russia will seek to reassert its hold on other non-Russian areas. The West, its governments and media, will have to be far more determined to prevent that from happening. (Ieva Bolsteina) US



They say that generals like the war. But the interesting thing is that the further they get from Chechnya, the more they like this war. The ones who are at the front hate it. How do we profit from this war? After the beginning of the war in Chechnya unexpectedly more money was found in our budget to pay for the army and defence complex. They even found money to buy equipment and weapons - something the army has failed to do for over a dozen years. This is surely a commercial war. Not just the small figures selling out army reserves benefit from this war, but also the top influential figures as the distribution of the military budget can bring large profits. The aim of the war was declared as to eliminate terrorists, but with Basaev and Khottab alive it is difficult to report a victory. It means that the whole territory of the republic has to be cleaned up, which is impossible under the conditions of a guerrilla war. Russia