Putin said to exploit U.S. war
Russia has exploited the post-September 11 war on global terrorism
increase its repression in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, the top
diplomat for the self-styled Chechen Republic said in an interview.
Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister for the Chechen government, also
the Bush administration had not done enough to point out human rights
by Russian forces in the brutal Chechen conflict as it sought to
ties with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Without a doubt, the tragedies in New York and Washington have
adverse effect on our situation," Mr. Akhmadov said in a meeting with
reporters and editors of The Washington Times on Wednesday. "Anyone can
observe the obvious fact that Russia has utilized the tragedy for its
purposes and its own goals."
The Chechen minister, in his first visit to Washington since the
September 11 attacks, met with lower-level State Department officials
more than two hours on Wednesday. Because the U.S. government did not
recognize the separatist Chechen regime, the meeting was not held
State Department building.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the meeting,
refusing even to confirm that it had taken place.
Mr. Akhmadov's previous visits to the United States and Western
have provoked sharp protests from the Russian government.
Moscow yesterday accused the United States of an "unfriendly step"
receiving Mr. Akhmadov, and urged Washington to stand by its commitment
"Such contacts, no matter what the justification, cannot be seen
anything other than an unfriendly step toward Russia, contradicting the
spirit of cooperation and partnership of both countries in acting
international terrorism," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Chechen sympathizers considered Mr. Akhmadov's visit in March to
Washington a diplomatic breakthrough. He met with the acting assistant
secretary of state for the region, the first time he had been received
such a high official level.
The State Department would not identify who met with the Chechen
minister on Wednesday, except to say the visit was not at the same
the March meeting.
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations also have criticized the
Russian military campaign in Chechnya and urged the Kremlin to seek a
But Mr. Putin strongly pressed the case since September 11 that
Chechen rebels were "terrorists" linked to the al Qaeda network of
Laden. Moscow charges there are extensive personnel and training links
between the Islamic fighters in Chechnya and the fundamentalist Islamic
network bin Laden operated in Afghanistan.
Mr. Akhmadov in the interview flatly denied any ties between
resistance groups and bin Laden, and said what he called "erroneous"
press accounts about a linkage to al Qaeda had damaged his people's
"Bin Laden has never mentioned Chechnya once in all his speeches," Mr. Akhmadov said. "I have had no contact with him whatsoever and no one I know of in our government has had any contacts."
He noted that U.S., British and other Western nationals had been
identified among the prisoners captured in the U.S.-led military
against Afghanistan's Taliban regime - but not one Chechen.
Reed Brody, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said Russia
been among the nations attempting to link the new terrorism fight to
long-standing conflicts within their borders.
"The Russian experience shows that this cynical strategy can
Said Mr. Akhmadov: "Unfortunately, we have not seen any noticeable
change in U.S. policy from the Clinton administration to the Bush
administration. We are realists and we don't expect the American
to recognize our government, but we would like to see some recognition
a war against our nation, a genocide, is under way."
He said the periodic U.S. complaints about Chechnya "have very
little influence on Russian behavior. They just discount it."