Shamil Basayev: “OK, so I’m a terrorist”

Russia says it is outraged by an interview with Chechen guerilla leader Shamil Basayev broadcast by the ABC TV network, and the foreign ministry summoned a senior US diplomat in Moscow to express its “strong indignation” over the show. In the interview, the warlord—who claimed responsibility for the deadly raid on a school in Beslan, South Ossetia—admitted he was a terrorist but said the Russians were terrorists too.

More than 320 people—half of them children—were killed in the Beslan attack last September. Russia is offering a $10 million reward for the capture of the warlord.

The interview with Shamil Basayev—recorded at his hideout in Chechnya—was aired on ABC’s Nightline program July 28. The Russian embassy in Washington said ABC’s apparent decision to ignore Moscow’s arguments against broadcasting the material was deplorable. The statement charged Basayev was “responsible for slaughtering innocent victims during many major terrorist attacks that he masterminded and personally perpetrated.” It said: “The most shocking and deadliest of them was the cold-blooded killing of hundreds of children” in Beslan. The interview “runs counter to the spirit of Russian-American partnership in our joint fight against the global threat of terrorism,” read the statement, which was also broadcast by ABC.

In the interview, Mr Basayev, speaking through an interpreter, admitted that he was “a bad guy, a bandit.” He openly stated: “OK, so I’m a terrorist, but what would you call them [the Russians]? If they are the keepers of constitutional order, if they are anti-terrorists, then I spit on all these agreements and nice words.”

The rebel leader accused Russia of killing thousands of Chechen women, children and elderly in what he described as “a colonial war”.

When asked if Beslan-style attacks could happen again, he said: “Of course they can. As long as the genocide of the Chechen nation continues…anything can happen.”

He refused to accept responsibility for the deaths of children killed in Beslan, blaming Russian authorities. (BBC, July 29)

See our last post on the Caucasus crisis.