The stories this week are old favourites Chechnya and NATO, spiced with new life: accusations against Russia by Georgia and the possibility that Russia will become an important supplier of crude.
The Kremlin’s position on Chechnya is clear: the terrorists led by Aslan Maskhadov must surrender. On September 24th, President Vladimir Putin told the Chechen rebels to lay down their arms and integrate themselves into civil life. Since then, new contacts have been made and it is probable that there will be negotiations. These, according to Interfax news agency “can only lead to the surrender and integration of the rebels in civil life”. Negotiate independence, no. Negotiate surrender, yes.
What is not reported in these stories is the criminal activity of the terrorist bandits who hide behind the Qu’ran and call themselves “freedom fighters”. What they are is a motley band of rapists, murderers, drugs and arms traffickers, extortionists, racketeers and kidnappers – of civilians, even women and children. It is also not reported that a large part of the population of Chechnya loathes the people who purport to be fighting for independence while they make fortunes through criminal activities and terrorism.
Regarding NATO, Secretary-General Lord Robertson is quoted as saying: “President Putin showed clearly that he held NATO in greater and greater respect, not as a threat against Russia but as an important and vital security partner (sic)”. This position sums up the collaboration taking place as the world unites against international terrorism.
For the first time in many months, the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict springs back into life, with Tblissi (Georgian capital) accusing Moscow of aiding the Abkhaz rebels by shelling Georgian positions, an accusation strongly denied by the Kremlin. “This happens either because the Georgian leadership does not control the situation in its territory or because it manipulates the terrorists to serve its objectives,” declared Russian Defence Minister, Serguei Ivanov.
Moscow accuses Tblissi of allowing supplies to reach the terrorists in Chechnya through Georgia and allowing Chechen forces to spill across the border in the Pankissi region to escape from the Russian forces. Meanwhile, the authorities of the separatist region of Abkhazia have claimed that a large group of Chechen and Georgian soldiers has launched an offensive, while two Georgian aircraft strafed Abkhaz villages. Abkhazia, situated on the shores of the Black Sea in Western Georgia, declared its independence in August, 1992.
Finally, any decline in the world’s oil supply could be made up by Russia, according to Russian Energy Minister Igor Iussufov, who stated, “Our country is ready to make up any deficits in the supply of oil”, but respecting the policy of the OPEC cartel.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL