Q. Therefore, the development was accelerating and finally ended with the tank attack of Grozny. How did you manage to convince the Russian leadership of necessity to do it?
A. After all disappointments and misfortunes, we one more time gathered with Khazbulatov: I had to go to Nadterechny Region and declare to the people that we had no support of the Russian government. And namely at that moment we got this support. I explained to the head of the President administration, Sergei Filatov what was the situation, that Dudaev had started mass annihilation of people. In particular, Dudaev sent a punitive expedition to Nadterechny Region: 1,000 people to execute intractable people in Tersky mountain ridge. After having believed in the support, we asked for tanks, armoured troop-carriers, ammunition. Though, we did not received it at once. There were tanks, though we could not drive them, so we had to hire former militants. That were our only mercenaries. After the tank crews were completed, we moved the tanks to Grozny. The city was practically occupied. We seized all key positions: buildings of the Internal Ministry and of Federal Security Service, television, radio, except for the president’s palace. We needed assistance of Russian internal troops so much, but we did not got it. Dudaev brought up his forces, so we were thrown back.
Q. Who promised you to render military assistance?
A. I would say so: the Russian leadership.
Umar avoided a direct answer. Though, ex-internal minister Kulikov and then-commander of United Group of Federal Troops in Chechen Republic, who was interviewed by me in 2000, said following: “The beginning of the war, initiated by the tank attack increased Dudaev’s rating and made him Chechen national hero. As for the opposition, I can say that the federal centre is guilty of it. The opposition headed by Avturkhanov addressed to the Russian government, so Russian functionaries: FSB head Stepashin, FSB Moscow department’s chief Savastyanov, and the President’s representative to the State Duma Katenkov proposed to send to the opposition volunteers of ex-servicemen and tanks. I personally supposed that should be mercenaries of the number of experienced militaries hired for big money. Though, Romanov, then-commander of Internal Troops’ group in Mazdok said me in 1994 that young sergeants had been sent there, who even were not quartered in barracks. Afterwards, the operation was carried by Avturkhanov. Neither the General Staff, nor Russian Defence Ministry participated in it. While we, workers of the Internal Ministry even did not know about intentions of that ones who had handed over arms and military equipment to Dudaev. I got to know about this storm from mass media, because all the intentions were kept secret. I can only say that arms and military equipment were handed over according to the decision of the Russian government. The Defence Ministry handed them over to the Provisional Council through the internal troops. Apropos, this case is still being investigated by the military prosecutor’s office.”
Q. Though, you as a Chechen who knows local orders and customs probably understood that presence of Russian troops in Grozny would excite pro-Dudaev spirits in Chechens. And it did, after Dudaev showed to the people Russian tankmen taken prisoner by him after the tank attack.
A. We had supporters not only in Nadterechny Region. So we could have come to an agreement. I asked only for not bringing the troops and for not launching the military operation. I wanted us to come to an agreement by ourselves. We had contacts with some field commanders, so we could have come to an agreement with them. We had a higher living standard in Nadterechny Region, which could not be compared with any disorders in the rest of Chechnya. We had almost the same law and order in Nadterechny Region, as we had in Soviet times. Many people wanted to live with us. That was a normal life, so our people did not want to be bandits. So, I asked for an economical assistance to draw away people from Dudaev, while the military assistance was necessary for defence, but not for an attack. I was against that action of November 25. I proved that Chechens would support us. If my then-propositions had been understood, there would not have been other victims and passions.
Q. So, you suppose, somebody was interested in, so to say, increasing rating of Dudaev? A. In Chechnya, economical and political interests of many groups are concentrated. And not only in Chechnya, in Caucasus in general. Interests, both private and state, of Russia, Turkey, USA, and other countries are mixed up here. Dudaev’s regime was a bandit regime. He did not intend to develop economy, culture etc. While his authority was decreasing against the background of total poverty, he was popular when some tension took place. So, that ones who had lead Dudaev to power and armed him, from time to time took some measures to increase his rating. While he was grateful: through Chechnya, drags and arms were transported, other kinds of illegal business were prosperous. In Chechnya, only a restrict circle of people make a profit out of this. At the same time, pensioners do not receive pensions. In villages, people live like in the Middle Ages. In the meanwhile, oil extracting and refinery works were never stopped. Oil was exported. How? It is impossible without the centre’s participation. And one more question: where is money received for oil? Did the Russian government know nothing about it? I cannot believe it. The whole army of functionaries has incomes from it. They have connections with criminals implicated in drag and people traffic. Q. Was there an opportunity in summer of 1995 to finish with the militants?
A. In summer of 1995, the militants were locked in mountain gorges. While we had our people among them and were aware about their spirits. I know what Maskhadov said at that time: “What does actually the Russian leadership think: will they annihilate us or not?” Alas, in the Russian leadership, there were probably people who thought it was premature to finish with the militants. That was why, later that situation in the city of Budenovsk took place. I suppose that the operation in Budenovsk was prepared both by Chechnya, and by Russia. With joint efforts. The troops were ordered to retreat, and the negotiations were started. By the way, at the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation I proposed: “Let the Chechen Committee of National Concord to carry out negotiations! We will understand each other.” But in addition to Russian side, there is also OSCE, UNO, NATO. And nobody remembers already about Chechen and Russian interests. The main task for them to satisfy interests of the West. While, it is well known, what are its interests. We proposed to disarm Chechen units of both sides, to return Russian troops to barracks and to carry out a democratic election. The people will elect lawful authorities. Though, our opponents were leaded not with concern about the good of Chechnya, but with interests of some Western structures and of some Russian oligarchs. So, the negotiations were carried out by different figures. The Committee of National Concord also participated in it, though it did not have a deciding vote. We could only observe how interests of Chechnya and Russia were betrayed. Of course, the war must have been stopped, though through annihilation of terrorism and extremism on Chechen soil.
Umar Avturkhanov was interviewed by Ilay Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/30/40559.html