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."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?