Thursday, November 3, 2005. Issue 3288. Page 1.
Putin, Dutch PM Spar Over War in Chechnya
By Karl Emerick Hanuska
Paul Vreeker / Reuters
Putin and Balkenende holding a news conference Wednesday in The Hague.
AMSTERDAM -- President Vladimir Putin sparred with the Dutch prime
minister on Wednesday over the war in Chechnya, accusing some European
leaders of being "more Muslim than Mohammed."
Speaking at the end of a two-day visit to the Netherlands, Putin
rejected allegations that federal forces have been too heavy-handed in
attempts to put down a decade of rebellion in which up to 160,000
people are believed to have been killed.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had raised concerns about
respect for human rights in Chechnya in talks with Putin.
But Putin likened Russia's problems in the region to attacks by
Islamic militants in Europe, such as the murder of Dutch filmmaker
Theo van Gogh exactly a year ago by a Dutch-Moroccan.
"It was a terrible event that is, of course, a sign of a much broader
problem called international terrorism," Putin said at a televised
joint news conference with Balkenende in The Hague.
"We are fighting very cruel people -- beasts in the guise of human
beings who do not and do not want to understand in what time and world
they live. Our response must be equal to the threat they present to
modern civilization," Putin said.
Putin has gained a reputation for his robust responses to any
perceived criticism of his policy in Chechnya, where human rights
groups say federal and pro-Moscow Chechen forces kidnap and murder
with impunity. During a trip to Paris in 2002, he offered to have a
critical journalist circumcised so "nothing will grow back."
The Dutch prime minister said he and Putin had talked very openly
about human rights but emphasized that worries remained.
"The topic of Chechnya is a very delicate one," Balkenende said. "With
this state visit, we have to give attention to the fact that we are
concerned about human rights and concerned about human rights
activists, and the way they are treated."
Putin said terrorists would seize upon any sign of weakness and
chastised Western Europe for what he said were overblown concerns
about abuses against Muslims in Russia.
"Sometimes it seems to me that certain European leaders want to be
more Muslim than the Prophet Mohammed," Putin said.
"My opinion is that in the Caucasus and in Chechnya, we are protecting
both our and your interests. If we allow terrorism to raise its head
in one region, the same will happen in other regions of the world," he
Countries need to work together to combat terrorism effectively, Putin
said, adding that cooperation with the Netherlands and the European
Union on this issue was one topic that he and Balkenende had discussed.
The European Union will earmark 12 million euros to 13 million euros
($14.5 million to $15.7 million) to fund health and education programs
in Chechnya next year, an EU official said Tuesday, The Associated
The European Commission's delegation chief in Russia, Marc Franco,
told Moscow-backed Chechen President Alu Alkhanov during a visit to
Chechnya that the money would include 9 million euros for new
equipment at a maternity clinic and a children's hospital in Grozny,
the AP reported, citing Itar-Tass.
Franco said about 5 million euros would be used to fund improvements
to schools in Chechnya and Ingushetia. The improvements would include
supplies and equipment for science classes.
British Ambassador Tony Brenton, who was also in Chechnya along with
the Austrian ambassador to Russia, said the EU had decided to allocate
20 million euros next year for social programs in Chechnya, Ingushetia
and North Ossetia.
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