LETTER:The West and Chechnya

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The Independent Online
From Mr Malcolm Abaza

Sir: You are wrong to suggest that "Chechnya is not the West's cause" (18 January). It is of considerable importance to the West that, if Russia is to cite international law in defence of its "territorial integrity", then it must be held accountable for flouting international law with respect to human rights and the excessive use of force.

While hostage-taking by the Chechens cannot be condoned, it should be remembered that the Russians in taking Grozny killed more than 20,000 civilians (most of them ethnic Russians) with their "precision" bombing raids. To condemn the former as an "act of terrorism" while exonerating the latter as justifiable in order to maintain existing boundaries seems hypocritical.

Events in Chechnya cannot be safely ignored or swept under the carpet any more than events in the Balkans prior to 1914 could. The repercussions of the Chechens' drive for independence will play a large part in shaping the outcome of the presidential elections in Russia, and for this reason alone Chechnya should be of vital concern to the West.

Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Abaza

London, SW8