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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Of First Causes and Their Bloody Aftermath




The completion of the active phase of military operations in Chechnya against illegal armed formations has coincided with an intensification of international criticism about Moscow's violation of human rights in the North Caucasus.


The key defect in such pronouncements is that the authors try to defend these rights in terms of all citizens of Chechnya, without exception, making no distinction between those who were never part of illegal armed formations and those who chose the path of war. What also completely perplexes the Russian military and political leadership is that, throughout the Chechen campaign, many international human rights organizations practically never accused armed Chechen separatists of violating human rights or Russian national and international law under an entire category of human rights.


Moscow sees these questions in a totally different light. Human rights must be completely and continuously guaranteed to civilians of the Chechen republic, but temporarily they must be guaranteed to members of illegal armed formations only insofar as legal defense and humane treatment are concerned. This is a necessary and legal measure.


It is difficult to imagine that the authorities would take no action if, say, such powerful, anti-constitutional armed formations suddenly appeared in Northern Ireland or in the Basque region. The number of fighters in Chechnya reached 20,000 at the end of 1994 and 1996, and 40,000 in the beginning of 1995 and in the fall of 1996. Any government faced with such an armed force on its territory rightfully would characterize its actions against those forces as a "suppression of a large, armed insurgency intent on the forcible change of constitutional order and forcible secession from the federation." There are distinct articles, 279 and 280, against this in Russia's Criminal Code. Thus, it is difficult to agree with the use of the term "anti-terrorist operation," which Moscow is using again to describe its military operations in the North Caucasus. It's time to call things by their rightful names. The recent accusation against Aslan Maskhadov of engaging in "the organization of an armed insurgency" clearly comes late in the game.


Chechen illegal armed formations have violated many other articles of the Criminal Code: Article 105 (murder); 126 (kidnapping); 161 and 162 (theft and robbery); 186 (counterfeiting); 205 (terrorism); 206 (hostage-taking); 210 (organization of a criminal group); 222 (illegal procurement and possession of weapons and munitions); 275 (high treason); 316 (concealment of crimes); 353 and 354 (planning, preparation for and conducting of an aggressive war and incitement to conduct it); 359 (use of mercenaries). These violations have been documented. Do the human rights advocates know about this?


As for mass murder and terrorist acts against civilians, Grozny has flouted the General Declaration on Human Rights, the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War and other acts on human rights. Unfortunately, many countries are still silent in this regard.


The aggression of Grozny against Dagestan and the explosions of buildings in a number of Russian cities last year exhausted Russia's patience; thus, the decision to deal once and for all with the illegal armed formations was the only possible and right decision. No one either in Russia or abroad has offered a better solution, better in terms of a realistic solution, and not a propagandistic or encouraging recipe that would spur the separatists to new acts.


Russia's current leadership acted both on an evaluation of the threat of Chechen secession and on its stated goal of creating an independent Ichkeria from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. In beginning its suppression of the revolt, Moscow was supported not only by the Constitution, but also by the Code of Conduct on Political-Military Aspects of Security, agreed to by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the Budapest summit of 1994. Point 6 reads: "The participating States will not support terrorist acts in any way and will take appropriate measures to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms." Russia has also fulfilled its obligation according to Point 25: "The participating states will not tolerate or support forces that are not accountable to or controlled by their constitutionally established authorities."


Now, before the end of the active phase of its military operations against the rebels, Russia extends a helping hand to all honest Chechen citizens. Those who suffered because of the fighters and the consequences of war evoke sympathy. Their social, economic and political rights must be protected. But temporarily those rights cannot be guaranteed to those who, without provocation and on many occasions, violated those same rights, the rights to life, work, education and a dignified existence.


It is to be hoped that this policy will be understood and accepted in the West. Russia would be very grateful to all those governments that will attentively consider these thoughts and that will help establish a lasting peace on Chechen land.


Vladimir Kozin is a senior adviser in the Foreign Ministry's European cooperation department. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Foreign Ministry.