INTERVIEW - 5 September 2003

Andrei Babitsky: "The long-standing war resulted in Islamic
radicalism in Chechnya"

Caucasus Times: Andrei, prior to now you had been to Chechnya
quite
often, but this time the Chechen rebels movement became your
main
interest there, while the mass media is focused on elections in
Chechnya?

Andrei Babitsky: Actually, very few have an idea what is brewing in
the Chechen rebels underground since the resistance movement
has
mutated in the course of four years of the second war campaign.
There
have been a lot of speculations on this account, but no foreign
journalist has ever been able to get to the guerillas camps in the
mountains thus far. As to the Russian journalists, they are not
interested in what's going on the other side, at that restricted by
the Russian legislation that vetoed any contact with the Chechen
mujahideens as an enemy party. The western journalists have very
limited opportunity to get in contact with rebels and are at
constant
risk to be expelled from the country. Actually, as of now the
rebels
remain quite isolated that are not interested themselves in any
contacts with foreigners. All this also has induced me to go to
Chechnya.

CT: What is the main cause of the growing radicalism in
Chechnya?

AB: The Chechen rebels movement is being radicalized and the
process
got into high gear. The anti-Russian movement for self-
determination
has mutated into a jihad. The national liberation movement
turned
into a religious war. This is quite natural when the movement was
secluded and the rebel underground is stewing in its own juice.
There
is no channel for accruing fury, where no exchange of ideas or
emotional contacts with the outside world. On the other hand,
just
think of it, in a week I had spent over there in the mountains it
was
raining all day long. A warrior there needs to be constantly on a
move, loaded with munitions. Therefore, one must be motivated
and to
have an aspiration for an emotional objective to survive somehow.
The
more radical, plain and rewardable the doctrine is, the easier the
war path becomes for the holy warrior who might get killed next
morning but would gain his reward and relish in paradise
gardens.
Such harsh conditions originated the doctrine, which appeals to
an
experience of the first Islamic communities. It has not gone too
far
yet, but the course is clear and constant.

CT: Prior to now scores of observers have paralleled the Chechen
conflict to the Palestinian long-term conflicts, since the counter-
terrorism warfare has been declared round the world. Do you find
any
analogy between these two conflicts?

AB: I would say, there is absolutely no similarity in both examples
in historical perspective. Since such radicalism and methods do
not
correspond to the Chechen national traditions the populace as
well on
plain as in the mountains would never accept these religious
doctrines. And the majority of the Chechens do support the rebels
not
as a group of the people with definite religious beliefs but as the
field police, as those who are capable to resist and fight off
anyhow
the bloody arbitrariness in Chechnya. The Islamic radicalism in
Chechnya was ensued as a result of this long-term war. Actually,
the
longer the war continues the more radical the Chechen armed
resistance will get. It is a little bit complicated to grasp, but
there is the Palestinian conflict does not match our case.

CT: As of now almost all observers consider Kadyrov to be a
winner in
the upcoming presidential elections in the republic. How good are
chances for Kadyrov that he will win?

AB: The Russian authorities actually have granted Kadyrov a free
hand
in Chechnya who managed to create an enormous, powerful
administrative machine, which has been killing the people
unabatedly.
And now Kadyrov's forces have turned to be a more awful scourge
for
the populace than the federal forces. That's the way things are. So
far, a man detained by the Russian troops could have chances to
get
away battered, crippled but alive. Not with Kadyrov's gunmen.
They
leave nobody alive. As a matter of fact, Kadyrov's loyalists have all
resources to make the election results predictable. Therefore, I
consider Kadyrov is going to get the presidential office in
Chechnya.

CT: Is there any precondition giving hope for the situation in
Chechnya will ever get better?

AB: I just do not know. The situation there is quite complicated.
Today it is almost impossible to predict all factors, which would
influence the situation in Chechnya, there are lots of them. Thus
far, there are several groups in Russia, which are interested in the
war to go unabated.

Islam Tekushev, Prague, Caucasus Times