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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015