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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dudayev: 'We Are Prepared to Fight Indefinitely'

URUS MARTAN, Southern Russia -- Russia's hopes for peace in Chechnya rest with the combative, increasingly intransigent figure of Dzhokhar Dudayev, the separatist leader of the embattled republic.

In a recent interview with a small group of journalists, Dudayev gave few signs that he was ready to stop the struggle for full independence from Moscow.

"We are prepared to fight indefinitely, or at least for 49 more years, to make this a total of another 50 years of war to add to our history of 437 years of war against the Russian empire," he said.

Dudayev seemed tired at a late-night meeting with journalists at a secret location in central Chechnya last week. But even at 1 a.m., the truculent spirit of the rebel leader came through.

"There are no grounds for compromise. Only independence and withdrawal of the federal troops can bring peace," Dudayev said. "There is, at the moment, no contact between us and the aggressors, there are no negotiations going on and there are no grounds for any, nor do we want any."

President Boris Yeltsin has promised a speedy end to the 14-month war, saying on more than one occasion that the Chechen conflict is the biggest impediment to his re-election. Dudayev is in no mood to help Yeltsin with his campaign.

"The Russians have repeatedly changed the deadlines for when to end this war -- in two hours, in three days, in a month, before the 50th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, before Yeltsin's birthday, before [Defense Minister Pavel] Grachev's birthday, before the European Council's anniversary, before the G-7 anniversary, before the presidential elections.

"It is not up to Boris Yeltsin or any other Russian to end the war in Chechnya. Whether there is to be war or no war is now a question for the Creator alone to decide, and we know that he is on our side," he said.

The Chechen leader was dismissive of Yeltsin's recent statement that the Russian side would demand that Dudayev, along with rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev be handed over "to be shot."

"You can see for yourself that Boris Yeltsin is full of contradictions," said Dudayev. "However, his statements do not carry much weight among us."

While Dudayev emphasized that his army would not hesitate to carry out operations against military and economic targets on Russian territory, he condemned tactics used by Basayev and Raduyev, both of whom conducted armed raids outside of Chechnya in which large numbers of hostages were taken.

"Taking civilian hostages is not acceptable," Dudayev said. "Basayev has already been punished for his acts in Budyonnovsk. A similar punishment awaits Raduyev."

He did not disclose any details of Basayev's punishment: "We keep that a secret, but we have an army in which we punish those who do not obey."

The Chechen general said his army is very disciplined and tightly structured.

"Our army is now in all senses different from the one which fought the Russians 14 months ago. The professionalism we lacked then, we now have achieved, and I am convinced that you will not find a more efficient army anywhere in the world," he said.

Dudayev is bitter about the West's role in the conflict.

"The Western world is financing Russia's war against us. If it were not for the West, we could have reached an agreement with the Russians a long time ago," he said. "The Western world has an interest in keeping Russia occupied in this war, and, therefore, keeps sponsoring the Russians through credits and loans.

"A large number of those working for humanitarian organizations are in reality employed by the Russian intelligence service, and the aid they deliver ends up exclusively in the occupied zones," Dudayev added. He said, however, that he had been misunderstood when he was quoted recently as preparing terrorist attacks on Western Europe.

"I did make such a statement, but it was meant as a provocative answer to a provocative question. It was a form of a joke. We will concentrate on fighting the Russians for the time being," he said.

"But sooner or later this war will turn on the West, the war will escalate into a global conflict between the Moslem and the non-Moslem world. At that stage we, the Moslems, will unite with Russia and take on the West," Dudayev said.