There have been two Chechen wars over the recent tow decades. Now, as they say, there is the anti-terrorist operation being performed, to clean the territory from the illegal armed groups. What were we fighting for all those years? How are those wars linked with each other? Russia’s hero, State Duma deputy, Yevgeny Zelenov answered the questions from PRAVDA.RU correspondent.
Question: Mr. Zelenov, you used to be an army pilot, you are a colonel of the Air Forces. To what extent, do you think, are the Chechen wars of 1996 and 1998 similar?
Answer: They have a lot in common. First and foremost, the military force was used in both of the campaigns. The difference is that there was no exact position during the last war and we did not actually know, what we wanted. They were talking about the establishment of the constitutional law and order, but it was actually the war with Johar Dudayev, who was the president of the republic at that time. The second war is in the international scale. Now it is not a war against the Chechen militants, it is the war against the international mercenaries. It has been acknowledged in the whole world that the terrorists were backed up with other state and special services. That is why the military men must be present in Chechnya now.
Q: So, you do not support the opinion, according to which the Russian troops should be withdrawn from Chechnya?
A: Withdrawing the troops gradually, while the goals are achieved, is a normal thing. But I did not agree with how it was offered to do. What is that – to withdraw the troops from Chechnya and leave there the special units only, which are unable to execute the functions of the regular armed forces? I think it is a correct thing to do – to station a division of the armed forces in the republic together with an internal troops brigade.
Q: There is an opinion that the first operation was needed as a cover up to the spending of the budget funds, which were used not according to their purpose – the funds, which were transferred to Chechnya. A war will write-off everything. Those people, who were making the decision to dispatch the troops in Chechnya, were trying to conceal the embezzlement of the public funds. If talking about a military aspect pertaining to the execution of the goals, then they were executed normally. Speaking about the economic hidden motive, then I have to say there surely was “the oil pipe issue” there, it is true. I do hope that the funds, allocated in the budget of the next year for the restoration of the Chechen republic, will be used accordingly. I visit Chechnya often. I see, how important it is to deal with the restoration of the economy of the republic, which will help to get the population’s confidence back. There is nothing there yet, and if we fail to fund properly, if we fail to pay wages and pensions to the people, then the war will last forever.
Q: Do you think that the recent change of the Russian internal affairs minister can positively influence on the situation on Chechnya? The corruption was prospering when Vladimir Rushaylo was the internal affairs minister. Boris Gryzlov, your former colleague in the lower house of the parliament is a man of no links so to speak, that is why he was set a goal to – to root out the corruption in the law-enforcement bodies. To what extent is Gryzlov prepared for the position being a civil person, although the post he is now at was traditionally taken by the military men?
A: A man of strong will is needed to govern such a complicated department as the internal affairs. It goes without saying that the internal affairs system is corrupted. The steps, that are currently being taken by Gryzlov, can change the situation fundamentally. The entire personnel structure of the department should be changed, but this must not be done only physically. That is why the things, Gryzlov is now doing, changing the supervisors of the regional internal affairs departments, are of course the right ones. I stand for the cardinal change of the internal affairs system. Otherwise, the situation in the state is not going to change. This is not about the internal affairs only, it is about the military prosecuting bodies, the fiscal police. If we do not fight with corruption, then we will not raise the economy. If we fail to raise the economy in Russia, then it will not be possible to render any help to Chechnya.
Q: Do you think that if Russia does not help, then the conflict will spread all over the Caucasus?
A: If Gryzlov, or the president do not extenuate the situation, then this will surely take place. The establishment of law and order in Chechnya should be done in a tough way. Let us take the USA and Afghanistan as an example. The militaries were set a specific goal – the total elimination of the international terrorists. We must have the same tough policy, taking into consideration the fact that Chechnya is our territory.
Q: What kind of help, do you think should be rendered, in order to prevent from plundering? Boris Berezovsky, the well-known Russian oligarch and other people, who managed to save a fortune with Chechnya's help, urged to stop the bombing. Other influential politicians, including Anatoly Kulikov, who was the internal minister at that time, used to say the bombing must go on. Whose side were you on?
A: I stand for the military variant. You can do nothing with negotiations, or talks. The bandits do not understand this – this is what the world practice shows.
Q: Do you think, the anti-terrorist operation could be completed in 1996?
A: It was possible, but our forces took another turn and went away, under the guise of a peaceful solution of the conflict situation. It was good for someone to make the troops go and the situation was not changed. It was good for Alexander Lebed, for example, who got the fame of a peacemaker and gained good political points. He did not take it to the end.
Q: Who else could be involved in that?
A: These people are known, they now offer to quit this all and start negotiating with bandits. Berezovsky is silent though.
Q: Do you think he could have followers in the State Duma?
A: When there is such a serious situation in the state, then we must “do the same dance.” I do not understand Boris Nemtsov’s statements pertaining to the establishment of order in the republic by means of the political negotiations. The west wants it very much – so that we make the situation go along a political way. They changed their position after the events of September 11 though, saying, oh, you are acting right, but anyway, the human rights should not be violated. Unfortunately, the human rights in Chechnya are violated. We compared the relations between the military men and the border guards with the local population. The border guards are different people, they can find a common language with the people quickly. The relations with the internal affairs, with the people, who come and go, are sometimes very difficult. Each soldier is a bearer of the state policy. When we make the army understand this, then we will quickly put everything in order in Chechnya.
Q: Do you think the soldiers get their money? We can look though any program, and each of them stipulates for good money, which is assigned indeed.
A: There is enough of money. The problem is about extortion – the chiefs, who sit in the headquarters, they simply blackmail the soldiers.
Q: You saw it, when the Russian media was making fun of our army, “advertising” Shamil Basayev, Salman Raduyev and other Chechen bandits during the first Chechen war, didn’t you?
A: This is totally impossible. It is forbidden in any sate, in states of emergency, to which the army actions refer, there is a moratorium for the freedom of mass media. The USA did not allow to show anyone, who was wounded in Afghanistan as a result of the bombing. Look like they have prepared the situation in Iraq. And we are still talking about the freedom of speech, forgetting that the interests of the state is the top priority – its integrity and security.
Q: The kidnapping of the pro-Chechen NTV company journalist Elena Masyuk by the Chechen gunmen in 1997 – do you think it was a real act of kidnapping, or was it premeditated?
A: Masyuk and other pseudo-democrats travelled to Chechnya and wrote their biased anti-Russian reports there, fully realizing, what they were doing. Masyuk was earning very good money, as far as I can guess. Why was it necessary to make her a hero, when she was kidnapped by those, who she was used to praising. The soldiers, who fight and die – they are the real heroes.
Yevgeny Zelenov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Yevgeny Zelenov, a State Duma deputy, a member of the committee for defense, the chairman of the committee for defense and security of the inter-parliamentary assembly.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2001/12/21/35035.html