European Parliament Hosts a Conference Dedicated to Chechnya
Here is the full speech of Honorable Prime Minister, Mr Akhmed Zakayev :
Mrs ANNA FOTYGA, MP, Poland : Now I would like to give the word Mr Akhmed Zakayev. The Prime Minister the floor is yours.
Mr AKHMED ZAKAYEV, Prime Minister, Chechen Republic of Ichkeria : First of all I would like to thank you the organizers of today’s meeting. Thank you very much Anna, Alexandra, thank you all the participants of this events. Before I start to my speech, I have some kind of obligation; I have a letter from our friends from Lithuania. And this letter is in Russian and I will read it in Russian :
“To the Participants of the meeting called “Chechnya : The Beginning” in Brussels,
We appreciate the initiative that Polish parliamentarians took have a meeting on the independence of Chechnya. This confirms once again that the politicians in Poland are not only the patriots of their own country, but they are also stick this holy humanitarian principal for the Chechen people.
During the first war against Chechnya in 1994, the Polish parliamentarians were one of the first who protested the war against Chechnya and they helped to the Chechen refugees. It would be really good to find possibilities keep coming back the Chechen problem in the international level along those Russian aggressions in Ukraine and Georgia. Because this is a problem on the same scale.
The Russia officially recognized the independence of Ichkeria with the peace treaty dated 12 May 1997. It was signed by the Russian president Boris Yeltsin and the Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov. Russia hasn’t still canceled this treaty. This treaty should be treated as the fundamental base of international support to Chechnya. It will be also an opportunity to implement various assistance to the Chechen people. So that Chechens don’t feel abandoned and forgotten.
All the best wishes,
General Secretary of International Parliamentarians Group on Chechnya, Signatory of the Act of the re-establishment of the state of Lithuania in 1990″
I would also like to use this opportunity that we have good interpreters here, so I will present my report in Russian as well with your permission. Because it will save the time for us.
Allow me to start with an introduction. I am the Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Actually on the press, we are often referred as the “government in exile”. This is an exceptional phenomenon for the current political realities, although during the Second World War there were many governments in exile in the West. At first, these were the governments of those countries that were under the occupation of German Nazis. And after the World War II, the number of such governments did not decrease in the West, but increased, but those were the governments of Eastern European countries that were oppressed under the Soviet occupation.
Let’s go down the history lane and recall the facts. It came to me based on the words of my friend Yuri Felshtinsky. He said that Chechnya was the part of Russia before the 1st Russian-Chechen War broke out. This is not actually true in the line of historical reality, because after the collapse of Soviet Union, Chechnya was not a part of Russia, not a part of Soviet Union. After the collapse of Soviet Union, Chechnya and Russia separated the Soviet military assets; Russia made officially an arrangement with Chechnya and the Russian troops left the territory of Chechnya. They have left some weapons and military systems in Chechnya. In 1992, Chechen Republic have adopted its own constitution, nearly 1 year before the Russia and it did not sign the federal treaty with Russia. However, Yeltsin used the excuse of “constitutional order” and he arranged the first military invasion in Chechnya. Nevertheless, it was a shameful war for the Russia itself and its army. At the end, the Russian troops were withdrawn from the Chechen Republic. In 1997, under the auspices of OSCE and based on our own constitution from 1992, we have realized the presidential elections in Chechnya. And this election were acknowledge by the international community in the level of PACE, and OSCE. Then the procedure to establish a good relation with Russia has started on May 12, 1997 with the peace treaty. The very first article of this agreement was saying that “the use and threat of use of force in resolving any contentious issues is abandoned forever”. This agreement’s 2nd article states that both sides will establish their relation in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law. You can check this agreement on internet. After that, a number of agreements were signed between both side’s institutions. Also in 1997, a very interesting trilateral agreement was signed on the transportation of Baku oil and it was signed between Chechnya, Russia and Azerbaijan. All of these are the proves that the 2nd Russian military occupation started against the de jure and de facto independent state Chechnya which was recognized not just by Russia itself, but also the international community. This is why I believe that before to start looking a solution this problem, we need to establish the real causes of this conflict. The cause is very simple, the Chechen factor has been used by the Soviet Union and than Russia as a card for its own domestic policy issues. So the beginning of 2nd Russian-Chechen war and Putin’s arrival in Kremlin were the successful operations, because of after Yeltsin, there should be somebody. Yuri Felshtinky and David Satter outlined what happened; I don’t want to repeat the same things.
The reason for our meeting today is a conference dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the second Russian-Chechen war. Based on the statistics from international human rights organizations, since 1994, from the start of the Russiam military campaign, more than 250 thousand civilians were killed in Chechnya, over 40 thousand of these victims are children under 12 years old; 20 thousand people accounted missing, more than 300 thousand Chechens were forced to leave their homeland. As it now, again according to human rights organizations, there are still 25 to 26 thousand Chechens in the Russian camps which have become truly death camps for Chechens. Other victims of this war include the civilians of Russia who died as a result of house bombings in Buinaksk, Volgodonsk, Moscow in 1999, as well as during the capture of the theater on Dubrovka in 2002, and during the terrible terrorist attack in Beslan with the capture of the school in 2004, they became victims of this war. I have listed only those high-profile terrorist attacks that claimed hundreds of human lives.
The methods used by the Russian military in Chechnya are evidence that the purpose of this war was not “fighting international terrorism”, as declared by Kremlin propaganda, but it is the collective punishment of the Chechen people for their desire for freedom and independence.
In numerous reports of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe were noted that Russia, having unleashed a war in Chechnya, violated the Charter of the Council of Europe. Russia also violated Article 48 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, Article 3 of the 4th Geneva Convention, Article 7 of the ICC. But despite this, the leaders of the leading Western countries began to call the criminal war in Chechnya as “Russia’s internal affair”. And subsequently, the entire international community began to consider the Russian-Chechen conflict as an internal affair of Russia. In my deep conviction, this was not only a basic political mistake, but it is also contrary to the basic principles of international law. The problem is that it is precisely for this reason that crimes committed in Chechnya against the civilian population go unpunished, and this encourages Russia to further violate human rights.
In 2006, Putin signed two laws. According to the first law, any person who criticizes the existing regime and disagrees with the government’s policy is equated with an extremist and declared an enemy of the Russian state. And the second law imposes the Russian special services to eliminate the enemies of the state, both in Russia and abroad. Since that time, the Russian secret services committed two dozen political killings both in Russia and abroad. These are not my fantasy, but the facts with proves by the countries where these crimes were committed.
In 2013, Putin signed another law that allows for the punishment of families and relatives of those terror suspects. Thus, Putin legalized the practice of collective punishment. Dozens of houses were burned in Chechnya because the owners of these houses and their families were close relatives of those who fought in the Chechen resistance groups. Using this hostage system, the families and close relatives of Chechen patriots are subjected to terror for resisting against the Russian aggression or the tyranny of Kadyrov’s units. And it is precisely on this, terrorist system, that the occupation regime established by Putin in Chechnya has been supported all these years.
Meanwhile, today unemployed rate is 80% in the republic today, the outflow of the population from the republic continues. This is well known to the European migration services, where refugees from Chechnya apply on daily basis. This is also evidenced by the fact that no one lives in apartment buildings built in Grozny. This is especially noticeable at night. The houses stand without light in the windows and resemble tombstones of war victims. And, unfortunately, there is no tendency to improve the situation as long as Putin’s ruling regime remains in Russia.
Based on the latest statements made by Putin, he does not intend to give up power to anyone until the end of his life. The Russian political analysts draw an analogy of Putin’s Russia during the reign of one of the last General Secretaries of the USSR L. Brezhnev, which went down in history as a period of stagnation. Putin best understands the perniciousness of this phenomenon. But at the same time, he cannot cede power even to such an authorized person as Medvedev.
In my opinion, the main reason for this is Putin’s desire to evade himself from the responsibility for the war crimes committed in Chechnya and other crimes all over in Russia. I mean the bombings of houses in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Buinaksk in the fall of 1999, when hundreds of Russian citizens died. In Russia, there is an opinion that Putin’s intelligence services are behind this crime, and this opinion was confirmed after an unsuccessful attempt to blow up an apartment building in Ryazan, where three terrorists were detained, who later turned out to be FSB officers.
I want to remind you that everyone who investigated this case was killed. General Alexander Lebed, who stated that “we will soon find out that the Russian special services are behind these explosions,” died in 2002 in a helicopter crash, the reasons for which have not yet been established. Russian State Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov, who led the parliamentary group conducting an investigation into house bombings and told the US Congress that the Russian intelligence service was behind these terrorist acts, was shot dead in Moscow in 2003. In the same year, another State Duma deputy Yuri Shchekochikhin, also a member of the commission for the investigation of explosions of residential buildings in Russian cities, died from an unknown poison.
The murder of president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in Qatar, the murder of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow, the assassination in London of Alexander Litvinenko using radioactive material, the murder of Natalya Estamirova in Chechnya, the murder of Umar Israilov in Austria, the murder of our Honorary Consul Medet Onlu in Ankara, the murder of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, the assassination attempt on Skripal in England as using chemical weapons, the assassination of Zelim Khangashvili in Berlin. All this is the state terrorism, and the Russian special services and the Russian President Vladimir Putin is behind it. The only way for Putin to escape punishment for all these crimes is to preserve the immunity which is guaranteed to the first person in the state. This is precisely the main reason why Putin wants to stay in power for the rest of his life.
Returning to the Chechen question, I want to note that what we are observing in Chechnya today – the construction of skyscrapers and stadiums – is also an attempt to eliminate the traces of war crimes. 80% of Grozny had been destroyed by bombardments. Dozens of settlements were wiped off the face of the earth. The entire industrial, cultural and social infrastructure was completely destroyed.
Before the first war, there were dozens of factories in Chechnya. Several factories were built during the Soviet Union and had the status of union significance. In Grozny, there were five theaters, three museums, the largest art gallery in the North Caucasus, where masterpieces of famous artists, libraries with multimillion-dollar book collections, and valuable historical and cultural archives were stored. It is all destroyed and cannot be restored.
Over the years, Chechens have sought a full independent investigation into war crimes committed by the Russian military in the Chechen Republic. The government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria has conducted many events in order to attract the attention of the international community to the Chechen tragedy.
Over the past 2 years, we have held a peaceful action “March for Peace, the Rule of Law and Justice”. The route of the protesters went through 15 EU countries. Pickets were held in front of national parliaments in the capitals of these countries. Participants in the march submitted petitions to the national parliaments with a request to support the call to the UN, EP, EU, OSCE:
1. To consider the Chechen question from the standpoint of the principles and norms of international law.
2. Create an international independent commission to investigate war crimes committed by Russia against the Chechen people.
3. Based on the results of the investigation, bring the war criminals in front of the justice.
Last year, we submitted a petition to the Hague Tribunal to institute criminal proceedings against Russian President Putin and other military and political figures who committed crimes against the Chechen people. Due to the fact that the Chechen Republic is currently under Russian occupation, this fact does not allow the government of the Chechen Republic in exile to file an application with the International Court of Justice in the established manner. But in order to prevent a dangerous precedent of impunity for war criminals and restore historical justice, we asked the Hague tribunal use universal jurisdiction acceptable for the International Criminal Court and find the possibility of investigating this case using the method “proprio motu ” on the basis of Article 15 of the ICC Statute.
Maybe it seems to some that currently the Chechen issue has moved to the 2nd or 3rd plan due to events in the world and in particular in Ukraine, which directly affect the geopolitical interests of the European Community. But I am convinced that the occupation of Georgian territories in 2008 and today’s events in Syria and Ukraine cannot be considered without the recognation of events that began in the Chechen Republic 20 years ago. The absence of any consequences due to the Russian-Chechen war led to an increase in Putin’s regime, which stimulated Russia to invade Georgia and Ukraine.
Today, Putin’s Russia, without exaggeration, poses a real threat to the security of the entire international community. And Putin has stopped being a Chechen problem long time ago. I am deeply convinced that only by calling Putin to account for those heinous crimes committed by the Russian military against the Chechen people can stop the aggressive actions of Russia in the rest of Europe.
Thank you very much for attention.
Mrs ANNA FOTYGA, MP, Poland : Dear Prime Minister, dear Akhmed. Thank you very much.
The video of this speech can be seen at YouTube with the English subtitles :
Other materials related with this significant event will be published later by our editorial group.