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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Chechnya's Woes Made In Moscow




If the Kremlin doesn't like the mess in Chechnya, the Kremlin largely has itself to blame.


The Kremlin did nothing when Dzhokhar Dudayev seized power in 1992. Dudayev's men burst into the legislature in Grozny, and somehow the mayor of Grozny ended up sailing through a window of that chamber and plummeting to his death. The Dudayevites would go on to seize weapons and dictatorial power through a falsified vote. Moscow either ignored cries for help - or praised Dudayev as a freedom fighter.


When an opposition to Dudayev appeared - one that included a few true Chechen patriots and a lot of bandits jealous of the Dudayev clan - Moscow belatedly and ham-handedly got involved.


First the Kremlin backed an ill-conceived paramilitary attack on Dudayev. Then, that halfhearted effort having failed, the Kremlin declared ... war. Instead of sending in federal officers to arrest Dudayev, which would have been entirely doable at the time, President Boris Yeltsin approved an indiscriminate aerial bombing campaign that killed tens of thousands of civilians - including thousands of children who disappeared along with randomly targeted Grozny residential neighborhoods.


This transformed the thuggish Dudayev into a national hero, a status sealed for the ages when Moscow finally killed him. Dudayev gone cleared the way for a peace deal, and his army chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, eventually came to power.


Maskhadov, a post-war addition to Dudayev's dubious band, was widely seen in Chechnya as an honorable officer, and was then - and remains today - the only figure who can unite the Chechens and deal with the Russians. The alternative to Maskhadov has always been a "warlord" like Shamil Basayev - whose rise to power could bring about another war with Russia.


Yet Moscow has done nothing to help Maskhadov - and everything to undermine him. Under the peace agreement Russia was to help fund the "reconstruction of Chechnya" - a phrase that is bitterly humorous since funds for that purpose have disappeared into commercial banks "entrusted" with delivering the money.


Meanwhile, Russia insists on denying Chechnya formal independence - but does nothing to police a region filled with the sort of hate, suffering and poverty one usually finds in a war-torn patch of land awash with weapons.


So where does Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin - who was head of the Federal Security Service during the war and one of the more odious hawks - get the gall this week to complain that Maskhadov "let" Stepashin's deputy be kidnapped?