The relations between the republics of Georgia and Abkhazia (which is the unrecognized republic) have been very intense for several years already. The attacks of all kinds of gunmen on Abkhazia from Georgia have become a usual thing.
So, what is the reason of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict? What is currently taking place in this region? These were the questions asked to Anton Surikov, who has been an independent observer in Abkhazia since the time when the conflict between the republics started.
Question: You are well aware of the history of the conflict; you have spent much time in the region since the beginning of the 1990s. What do you think is happening in that area?
Answer: The situation that has taken place in the Kador gorge is hard to consider separately from the events taking place in Georgia and also from the events of September 11 in the USA and further actions made by America in the field of its military presence on the territory of the former USSR.
Question: Do you think that the attack on the World Trade Center, the military operation in Afghanistan, and the regular intensification of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict have something in common? Is the Arab world making an offensive?
Answer: The Arab world has nothing to do with it. Whoever is behind the acts of terrorism, the United States use their consequences for setting up a powerful infrastructure of its military presence on the territory of the former Soviet Union. The republic of Uzbekistan was chosen as major strategic ally; America is establishing a powerful army base in Khanabad and the countries of the Caucasus act as a link between Central Asia and the army bases of the States, which will be built there. The Georgian president has already promised the Americans to place the airbase in Vazianu at their disposal. The same was promised by the president of the Azerbaijan republic, Geydar Aliyev. It stands to reason that the Chechen gunmen that are located in the Pankissky gorge are in active cooperation with the Georgian state. Moreover, Eduard Shevardnadze (the Georgian President) uses the fact of the gunmen’s presence, the so-called refugees; he actively gambles on it and extorts big money from the West as help. And now there has been a decision made, in the expectation of the American presence, to check the defense capacity of the republic of Abkhazia.
Question: There is another question coming up at this point. Do you remember the first Abkhazian campaign? Shamil Basayev was waging war on Abkhazia’s side. Why did the guerrillas change their “sympathies?” What is it, money?
Answer: During the first Abkhazian war, Shamil Basayev was not closely connected with foreign special services, in particular with the Saudi services. It was not only Basayev but also other commanders of the militant groups like Ruslan Gelayev and others. No one heard about Khattab at that time. This is why they were free to do whatever they wanted, and they basically acted on Abkhazia’s side during the first Georgian-Abkhazian war. The Chechen regime was established under the flag of Caucasian unity, so it could not be on the other side in the conflict at that moment. As far as the current situation is concerned, the Chechen bandit groups exist with the help of the Saudi money; moreover, they are commanded by the Arabs: by Khattab and other citizens of Arab countries. Of course, they execute the orders that they receive from there. Concerning the connection between Saudi Arabia and the US (on the level of special services), I think it is evident.
Question: You witnessed the first conflict. Do you think the situation is likely to change now?
Answer: Speaking about the recent incursion in Abkhazia, I am sure that it will be over with no results and will become very shameful, like what happened in 1992. The bandits may steal and kill, but they can not wage war. I see Shevardnadze’s position behind the incursion in Abkhazia, but it surely can not be separated from the Chechen events.
Question: Do you think the events in Chechnya will have an influence on what is currently taking place in the Caucasian region?
Answer: Saudi Arabia and America need Chechnya just for that. Chechnya is like a buffer between Russia and the USA’s presence in the Caucasus. However, if Russia stabilizes the situation in Chechnya and liquidates the sources of terrorism there, then it will have freedom of action in the region. The military actions are not necessary. There is a point in that only when the situation in Chechnya becomes stable.
Question: We all know that Russia has already interfered in the war, but not on its territory. I am talking about Afghanistan. Do you think there can be a connection between Khattab and Osama bin Laden?
Answer: I do not think that Osama bin Laden is what the world community represents him to be. Speaking about radical Islamic international terrorism (Basayev and Khattab are bright representatives of that), then it is Saudi Arabi and its special services that sponsor it.
Question: Who is Osama bin Laden then?
Answer: Bin Laden is a figure that has been deliberately created, a half-mythical person to take the public attention away from the real organizers of the radical Islamic terrorism.
Question: The Islamic terrorism. What is the basis of this phenomenon and who is behind it? Does oil play a big role here?
Answer: Definitely. If we pay attention to the geographic aspect of the future American presence on the territory of the former USSR, then we will easily notice almost total coincidence of the objects and bases in which the Americans are interested in the Caucasus and in the Central Asia with the routes of oil and gas pipelines and with the oil deposits that are being paid a lot of attention to in the press.
Question: Who do you think controls such projections? The Arab sheikhs? Or maybe there are our oil and not only oil tycoons here?
Answer: Russia’s specific weight in this policy and in the global geo-strategic game is so minimal that Russia can not be considered as a serious factor. Secondly, Russia does not have any policy at all. The things happening are not the outcome of a thought-through long-term policy; it is the wish to please the Americans. Russia is a passive side in this respect and not a subject of action. The Chechen war as a war was over in the spring of the past year. There are currently no big bandit groups in the republic, but their is still criminal activity there. And there is also Russia’s military presence there. This situation is the best for the commercialization of simply everything in this republic, taking account of the fact that the funds for the so-called recreation of the republic are being transferred. This all has become a profitable business.
Question: Speaking about the commercialization. Do Russia’s special services have information about it?
Answer: Of course they do. Efficient information is one matter, but evidence is absolutely another matter. The information should be given a go and someone has to be responsible for that. No need to mention that no one wants to take on that responsibility.
Question: I used to have conversations with a chairmen of one of the committees of the Russian parliament. He has been to Chechnya, where he was shown the photographs of Khattab’s winter camps. He asked the military men why they did not bomb the camps if they had the information about them? The answer was “There is no way to fly up to the camps to bomb them.” So as it seems, there is a way to take pictures of them, but there is no way to bomb them.
Answer: Everything clear in this respect. No one is going to believe that either Maskhadov or Basayev could be caught on such a small territory. There would not be such a situation if we had a strong political will.
Question: What can you say pertaining to Boris Nemtsov’s (the leader of the Russian SPS political faction) negotiations with ex-president of the republic, Aslan Maskhadov?
Answer: Nemtsov has been to Yugoslavia when the war was starting; he has been to some other places; it was nothing more than an attempt to gain political capital.
Question: Can Anatoly Chubais (the head of RAO UES of Russia administrative board) stand behind the idea of negotiations with Maskhadov. It is an open secret that Chubais has the support of Western financial circles, to which the war in Chechnya is a good business.
Answer: As far as Nemtsov is concerned, I do not consider him to be a person with serious business interests. Chubais’s business orientation is in another field. There are lots of other people who gain profit from the Chechen war. First and foremost, the president must show his will to destroy the heads of the Chechen bandits. The presence of mercenaries has to be liquidated afterwards; there are about 200 of them there. It is even hard to say that there are mercenaries; it is better to say they are from the special services. When they are destroyed or when they leave, then the situation will become easier.
Question: Are you talking about the variant mentioned in the State Duma, namely, to bomb the gorges?
Answer: No. The question is what to use in order to neutralize the most active element of the Chechen resistance. They are either special operations or missile strikes. The specialists will have to decide. The Russian president must show his political will first and foremost in order to carry those actions out.
Anton Surikov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru