Chechen leader swears revenge on Moscow

Phil Reeves talks to Dzhokhar Dudayev about his unyielding struggle against Boris Yeltsin

Southern Chechnya - As the echoes of another day of Russian bombing rolled along the valley below, the Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev sat in his country hideout yesterday and vowed to take revenge against the Kremlin for blindly trying to bomb Chechnya into submission.

Ten days after delivering yet another nasty jolt to the Yeltsin administration by launching a major assault on Grozny, the rebel commander-in-chief dismissed the attack as "small-scale" and warned that there was far worse to come.

"Large scale actions are being prepared in Russia and a long way outside Russia," he said as he sat on a sofa watched over by two Kalashnikov-wielding bodyguards during a late- night interview with six western news organisations, including the Independent.

After more than a year on the run, Dudayev, a 52-year-old ex-Soviet airforce general now clad in the fatigues of a guerrilla fighter, looks surprisingly relaxed and fit, despite constantly moving because of fears for his life.

Occasionally he laughed bitterly as he launched into long diatribes against the West for supporting Russia with multi-billion-dollar loans and, in particular, for agreeing to accept it into the Council of Europe.

But, mindful of Mr Yeltsin's publicly expressed desire to see their "president" shot, his aides were clearly nervous about security. It was only possible to interview him after a four-hour journey in a closed truck to the orchard- dotted, mud-boundfoothills under armed rebel escort. We were taken to five different Chechen bases, several of them patrolled by fighters still in their teens.

"Tens of thousands of people are making a living trying to assassinate me," said Gen Dudayev, after reeling off a list of examples: a bomb in front of his car, grenade attacks on his offices, and - more exotically - a knife which he claims to have been given. It had a location detector hidden in the handle.

But even if he was assassinated, the Chechen conflict would continue, he claimed, after indicating that a successor has already been found. "We are not as simple as you think, we have made preparations. After my death, Russia's ordeals will increase tenfold."

In a four-hour interview in which he was at times angry, but more often boastful and rhetorical, Gen Dudayev did his best to fuel rumours that he has chemical or nuclear arms by referring to a "secret weapon", which was "capable of bring a continent to its knees within a few hours". He said: "No one has any protection against these weapons. There are no missile fields, no land defences, nothing." He also confirmed that Chechen fighters, who are Islamic, have trained in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

As he spoke, Russian commanders continued to try to pressure Chechen villages into signing peace agreements by threatening to bomb them if they do not. They have made clear they are willing to carry out this sanction by repeatedly shelling settlements deemed to be hotbeds of resistance.

Itar-Tass news agency yesterday said clouds of smoke could be seen coming from the village of Samashki in western Chechnya, and the sounds of heavy shellfire and rocket attacks were clearly heard from Achkhoi-Martan, 10 km (six miles) from Samashki.

It quoted three teenagers who had managed to leave during the night as saying the village was badly damaged and many homes ablaze.

A Russian human rights official said on Saturday that troops were using tanks and multiple-launch Grad rockets against Samashki but refugees reported that many civilians were still in the village.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 of Samashki's 16,000 people managed to leave on Friday through a corridor provided by Russian forces, he said. Russian officials usually claim that civilians are evacuated before the attacks start, but aid workers say they have treated many women and children for missing limbs and other bomb-related injuries over the last 15 months.

The agreements, under which villages undertake to expel any resident rebel fighters and hand over weapons, are tied in with Boris Yeltsin's increasingly desperate efforts to end the war before Russia's presidential election in June. Once enough of them are signed, the Kremlin is expected to order the start of troop withdrawals in the hope of convincing Russian voters that peace has at last arrived.

Such manoeuvres have failed to impress Gen Dudayev, who is clearly enraged by the bombings. "It is terrorism," he said. "As long as we have strength there will be revenge for this kind of violence."

He said the agreements were a deliberate attempt to "create the conditions for civil war after the troops pull out." He believes that hard-line elements in Moscow are fuelling the conflict in the hope that it will last indefinitely.

However, he did not rule out all hope. Although he was adamant he would never have peace talks again with the "criminal and illegal" Yeltsin regime he said he would be prepared to negotiate with the Communist party if it took power in Russia.

"Today's communists are not the communists you have to be afraid of in Russia," he said. The Communists you have to be afraid of are sitting in their armchairs, disguised as democrats in power."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?