Chechenpress has just published a copy of the transcript of ABC’s interview with Shamil Basayev (note: site no longer exists, so link removed). It makes hideous reading, particularly Basayev’s delusional comments (whether he believes his own words or not, I’m not sure) about who is to blame for the deaths of those hundreds of children at Beslan. Of course, says Basayev, it’s the Russians who are guilty:
ANDREI BABITSKY: What kind of feelings did you experience after Beslan?
SHAMIL BASAYEV: To tell you honestly, I was shocked. I swear, I never expected that. I never thought Putin was so blood-thirsty that he would manifest his thirst for blood. I didn’t think he would. When confronted with a more serious situation, I thought they’d try to make some move like gas or something. That at least they wouldn’t do anything against children. That was my thinking. I figured that the more brutal I could make it, the quicker they’d get the message. I thought it would work. But it’s not sinking in yet.
I never thought there would be small children in Beslan. It’s a school. Anyway, the youngest would be a 6-year-old. There is a kindergarten across the road. I didn’t see anyone. We studied maps, looked at all. I made the plans. And I told the commander, I told him, when Russian officials show up, hand them our demands officially and then release all less than 10 years old, no questions asked. That’s what I told him. These were my conditions.
Basayev goes on to give the same explanation for the two hijacked planes that exploded, and the tragic end to the 2002 Dubrovka Theatre seige.
I was interested, also, to see the justifications that Andrei Babitsky, the interviewer gave for his conduct. Particularly disturbing was this explanation as to why he didn’t inform the authorities in Russia about his meeting with/discover of Basayev. Note that he doesn’t say he didn’t think they would believe the information he could give about Basayev’s whereabouts. Instead, he justifies himself by saying that they wouldn’t believe his innocence, that he didn’t have a connection to Basayev.
Many of my fellow Russians will ask why I haven’t informed the Federal security service of this meeting, so then they could locate and apprehend a terrorist and criminal. My answer to this is, I absolutely distrust Russian power agencies. I’m convinced they wouldn’t believe my words that I didn’t know anything. They would decide that I’m concealing facts as to Basayev’s whereabouts. I know how in, and not only in Chechnya, the special services and the functions of the interior ministry work. How many people disappear without a trace. How many people undergo horrendous, unbelievable, inhuman torture. I think I’d subject myself to torture if I contacted the Federal security service. I think it’s unwise and illogical to voluntarily choose such a fate for yourself.
Now I don’t have a lot of faith in the Russian security services myself. However, Babitsky’s justification here strikes me as rather odd. If anything, I would think he would be equally, if not more, afraid of any reprisals from Chechens angry that he had turned in Basayev than torture from the Russian security services.
I also wonder if there was an aspect of wishing to maintain good relations with Basayev and his coterie, just in case the opportunity for a future interview should arise…
There are certainly some controversial aspects surrounding Andrei Babitsky’s interview with Shamil Basayev. However, the whole issue needs to be seen in the context of widespread Western ignorance of what has taken place in Chechnya during the last ten years: the total destruction of Grozny, the capital of the tiny Chechen Republic, by indiscriminate carpet bombing which killed thousands of civilians, including many ethnic
Russians, and the almost total destruction of other population centres. Since 1994 more than 200,000 men, women and children have been killed by Russian and Russian-backed forces in Chechnya.