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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea