Q. So, the question was about Sergei Shakhrai?
A. No, a felt that Sergei Shakhrai really wanted to solve these problems, though there were also some other persons who surrounded the President and who were of a different view. I know, that many people do not like Shakhrai, though I am sure, at that time he really wanted to help Chechnya and Russia.
Q. And at that moment, Ruslan Khasbulatov appeared at the stage, though now he was not the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, but an authoritative politician with influence in his small motherland. According to him, in summer and autumn of 1994, he spent more time in Chechnya, than within the whole his previous life. They say, he could have stabilized the situation in Chechnya in a peaceful way, if not for Yeltsin’s personal negation relation to him. Is it so?
A. Once we permitted ourselves to express negatively about each other, though now I do not want to continue this tradition. However, everything must be explained. To be honest, namely Khazbulatov led Dudaev to the power. After August 1991, Khazublatov and Burbulis, accompanied by then-minister of the press, Poltoranin and singer Kobson, came to the city of Grozny. Zavgaev supported the putsch organizers in 1991, so you understand how the Russian authorities considered him. Khasbulatov publicly declared he would drive Zavgaev away in a cage. While Dudaev was declared democracy’s supporter, so his way to the power was cleanzed. Probably, Khazbulatov counted on influencing Dudaev, though his counts turned out to be wrong: the general’s next step was his presidentship and afterwards declaration of “Independent Ichkeria” November 1991. Now, Khazbulatov could do nothing against it. I have some materials about Dudaev, and I intend to issue a book in virtue of it. The book will content some unknown facts, different names. It should cover events which could not be understood so far. Everything will be put on its place. I do not know, if at that time, in Grozny Khazbulatov and his companions suspected that not they, but some more powerful forces ruled Dudaev, that namely that forces had planned and prepared everything. That forces already predicted the USSR collapse and Caucasus’s cut-off from Russia. Western special services who carried out their greatest operation on the USSR’s territory already patronized Dudaev at that time. Did our democrats guess into whose hand they played? Or they did not understand that they ruined the great power? But, “parade of sovereignties” started long ago before the USSR’s collapse, because then-Russian President, while carrying out his pre-election campaign” called to taking “as much sovereignty as everybody can swallow.” And what happened at that time in Chechnya? At that time, Doku Zavgaev ruled in Chechnya, who dreamed about turning his autonomous republic into a Union one. Apropos, that was not Jokhar Dudaev who declared Chechen sovereignty, but Chechen Supreme Council with Zavgaev at the head. Dudaev only confirmed this and developed this thesis by declaring Ichkeria the subject of international law. In the last months of Gorbachev’s ruling, a Union agreement was being prepared, according to which the USSR should have turned from the unitary power into an amorphous state formation, while every local leader must have become a half-independent appanage prince, which they all wanted so much. Though, the reality was even more than they expected. Thanks to the Belovezh Agreement, the Union republics at once became independent states, while autonomies became for Russia what earlier the Union republics were for the USSR. With such a weak centre, they became a destabilizing factor for Russia. Chechnya advanced more than others on this way. It was carefully protected, even a leader was found ahead of time. Though Dudaev was elected only in the second congress of Chechen nation. Afterwards, the Russian leadership behaved in the way as if there was no independent Chechnya at all. While at that time, the situation could have been settled without blood.
Q. Probably, there is one more fact connected with it, that too much armament was left in Chechnya when Russian Army was withdrawn from it?
A. From some unknown reason, this question is interesting for everybody and being discussed most of all. When Dudaev declared sovereignty of the republic, and when the Russian authorities declared an emergency situation, I was with my people in a building opposite the Internal Affairs Ministry. I had already about 1,000 people who had registered in my unit and who supported the existing power (of course, not that one of Dudaev), so we asked for arms. I am sure, we could have changed the situation. And we would have needed no landing, no emergency situation, which did not play any role and was soon cancelled. Vakha Ibragimov, then-Chechen internal minister, shrank in the face of danger and did not take any measures, as well as before him, Alsultanov did not reestablish order in the republic. Now, they both justify themselves by stating as if they did not have such a task. Though, in addition to it, neither Grozny leadership, nor Moscow leadership showed their will. At that time, there were conditions for any adventures. Formally, the USSR still existed, though it was already half ruined. While the Russian leadership also did not possess enough power. That was a real dual power. And in such conditions, the emergency situation declared in the republic did not reach what it was aimed for. There were troops in Chechnya not enough even for keeping extremists within the limits of law and order. The Grozny regiment was on its place, as well as the tank regiment which was a training unit. In Shali, there were ammunition depots containing almost the whole arsenal of the Northern-Caucasian District. Dudaev’s adherents became completely insolent: blackmail, menaces. There was a choice: to take resolute measures, or to withdraw troops and arms. The decision was taken, which is typical for our democrats as if defending interests of the country. The troops were fast withdrawn, while almost all arms were left in the depots. Dudaev’s adherents got aircraft, 54 tanks, a great amount of shooting weapon, ammunition, armoured troop carriers, and cars. Could you imagine, what all that meant for a Caucasian man? Who gave such an order is still unknown. The military prosecutor’s office carried some investigations. In my view, it will long investigate this case. Probably, some time we will learn it… But I suppose, the main reason was that unstable situation in the country: they were sharing power and intending to re-share property. At that time, Chechnya was not the main problem. This was why all our attempts to resist Dudaev were fruitless because of the Russian authorities’ indifference to them. The March 1992 attempt of the Coordination Council supported by all sane forces of Chechnya failed to resist Dudaev, as well as the next attempt, so-called “52 days” (namely for 52 days, our meeting in Grozny lasted). At that time, the city assembly was fired, people were killed and the chairman of the city administration, Gantamirov administration was wounded. The whole story is well-known. We asked the Russian leadership for carrying out a referendum about the republic’s status and about vote of confidence to the president and the parliament. If Dudaev had known that Russia will not allow to disperse the meeting and support our demands, he would not have use force. Thought, the centre did not reacted, so Dudaev understood, that the centre had given us up. The meeting was dispersed to avoid bloodshed. That was Shamil Basaev, who informed us about shooting down of our meeting.
Umar Avturkhanov was interviewed by Ilay Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
To be continued...
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/04/30/40559.html