Nadezhda Banchik:”When you are united, you’re stronger!”
We present you our latest interview with Nadezhda Banchik, the well known human rights activist, journalist and one of the our editors for Russian section which is coming soon.
WaYNaKH Online: Nadezhda you are going to become one of the editors of our webpage for Russian section which is coming soon. So could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Nadezhda Banchik: I am a journalist and editor by education, originally from Ukraine, now live in the U.S. and work as a freelance journalist for Russian and Ukrainian émigré weeklies and newspapers. Also, I am a member of Amnesty International.
WaYNaKH Online: You aren’t a Chechen but trying to help Chechen people for many years, why you are interested in Chechen nation?
Nadezhda Banchik: There are several reasons. First and foremost, I was brought up by the role models of my grandfather, Kvitko Samuil, a dentist. From my early childhood I remember often phone calls at midnight for help a patient. My grandpa used to get up immediately and traveled to a patient’s home to take care of him/her. He did not want to retire and died at the age of 76 at his workplace. Also, often I used to be awaked by phone calls for my dad, Yakov Banchik, who was a manager at big factory. He also used to get up at any moment and went to his workplace if there was an occident. So, I inherited acute feeling of what’s good and bad. Second, being a Jewish I see horrifying similarities between extermination of Jews in the Nazi Germany – and Russia’s dirty methods of silencing Chechens. And, finally, third, – I see that the most significant contributor to this dirty war is the Russian Mafia, comprised of post-Soviet KGB/FSB and GRU members who came to power with the outright purpose to commit immense economic crimes; and tend to keep their power by committing even much worse crimes against humanity. And Chechnya is the main playground for this Mafia-state. This Mafia has much more dangerous potential for the whole world then it seems even now, after it showed their potential at “energy wars” and aggression against Georgia. Chechnya was the starting point.
WaYNaKH Online: How could you describe today’s Russia?
Nadezhda Banchik: The best definition was given by honest and very good Russian analysts, Andrey Illarionov (who was an economic adviser to the Russian government until 2004 when he resigned and became a harsh critic of Putin’s regime) and Russian-American historian Yuri Felshtinsky. Both defined the regime as “Corporation of the high-ranking criminals who came from the former repressive special structures of the former USSR”. They came to power by robbing the Russian citizens of all their savings and stealing the assets of the former Soviet state, then used this assets to buy luxery mansions; then, seeing that the only way to keep such “fortunes” is through eliminating all potential protest forces did not stop before even the most bloody crimes such as staging terrorist acts and waging genocidal war on the innocent nation of Chechnya (making use from the world’s refusal to recognize the legitimate Chechen statehood as Chechen Republic of Ichkeria).
WaYNaKH Online: What do you think about the puppet regime in Chechnya? and how is life there?
Nadezhda Banchik: I never have been in Chechnya. However, since I started to do human rights action to protect the victims of the war, I followed the event very closely through the independent sources and by personal contacts with the most trustable Chechens (for example, Raisa Talkhanova, a documentary filmmaker, who’s film Inside Chechnya won Emmy in 2000; Saidemin Ibragimov, a renown human rights activist in Strassbourg who made the most profound analysis of the crimes in Chechnya, and many others); also, I read almost all articles written by Anna Politkovskaya and other courageous Russian human rights activists who are risking their lives in their best name to heroically defend the ideals of the Russian intelligentsia – truth, honesty and compassion. So I consider myself as educated enough about the situation in Chechnya. I followed the events that led to appointment of Kadyrov, whom Politkovaskaya described as “a monster fed and grown by the Kremlin”. I would mention that Kadyrov was sworn into power through manipulated “elections” where even all pro-Russian candidates were eliminated from the race (including Malik Saidullaev, a Russian businessman of Chechen origin who is respected enough among the Chechen ordinary civilians for his huge social and humanitarian work in Chechnya) – “Nobody but Kadyrov!” was a single Kremlin’s desire. Why? Because he only was merciless enough to carry out the Kremlin’s program for destroying the Chechen nation.
WaYNaKH Online: You are a human rights defender and leading to campaigns for innocent victims of Chechnya. So you know a lot about violations in Chechnya, what can you say about it?
Nadezhda Banchik: There are tremendous crimes against humanity committed, not simply “violations”. Crimes against humanity, since the first day of the war, when the Russians started with carpet bombing the civilian infrastructure, shelling on entire cities and villages. Then, forbidden weapons were used including WMD (chemical and perhaps biological) that caused mass illnesses of the population of Chechnya. Then, mass torturing, ungrounded arrests, mass killing in the villages and cities. Then, assassinations of all legitimate presidents of ChRI, Djokhar Dudaev and Aslan Maskadov, who were elected in lawful and free way. Then, assassinations of many political leaders and activists of ChRI. Nowadays, at least 20,000 Chechen prisoners are being held in Russian prisons and colonies. Whereabouts and names of the most part of them is kept secret, nobody knows in what conditions they are being held. However, many prisoners are well known. They became known because unimaginable torture of them drew attention of the human rights activists in Russia and around the world. All these facts prove that Russian authorities have secret program for destruction of the Chechen nation to make Chechnya a zone free of any judicial control so that Russian Mafia has convenient playground without unwanted witnesses. The Mafia will continue with their crimes there, including “grey market” for oil, drugs and arms.
WaYNaKH Online: You have close relationship with Chechen asylum seekers/refugees in whole around the world. How is their situation? What is their main problems?
Nadezhda Banchik: These problems are well known and well documented. Because the world of Big Politics managed to conspire on Chechnya to “close their eyes”on the crimes and appease the Russian regime, immigration authorities of the EU countries where Chechens apply for asylum cause any possible obstacles to them to receive an asylum. Often the authorities deny asylum to Chechens under pretext of the Kremlin-Kadyrov propaganda about “the war ended, normalcy is returning” even though they know well that’s not true. Chechen families have to wait for several years for the decision on their applications for asylum. All this time they have no right to work or study, they can live only in crowded immigration camps and centers without basic conditions for living. Many Chechens became ill of all these torments and ordeals. We, human rights advocates write petitions to authorities to supporting asylum seekers.
WaYNaKH Online: What do you think about the policy of Western society on Chechnya issue?
Nadezhda Banchik: The Western society makes tremendous miscalculation on the Chechen Issue. Appeasing Russia under pretext of “the war against international terror”(this terror is created to big extent by Russian and earlier Soviet secret services abroad, that is well documented in numerous books and articles including articles by Alexander Litvinenko who was brutally killed by poisoning Polonium 210 by Russian agents in London), the West agreed to turn their eyes from the crimes against Chechens, probably cynically considering this nation too small to be counted in the international geopolitics. However, Putin’s regime is the direct result of the West’s betrayal of the best aspirations of Dudaev and Maskhadov. The world will understand it’s huge mistake very soon. The West already feels the results of appeasement: Europe was freezing because Russia closed the gas pipeline to punish Ukraine for its Nato bid, Russia invaded Georgia and occupied a part of its territory. If the world wouldn’t take action to restore true peace and law in Chechnya then Russia would be even more aggressive.
WaYNaKH Online: What is your advices to Chechen people?
Nadezhda Banchik: I understand that Chechen people are at the same situation that were Jews during the Holocaust. What to advice at such situation when the entire world doesn’t hear the SOS? The only advice: try to overcome your ambitions and differences and consolidate around the most crucial aim: to stop the genocidal killing each other. I know that acute disillusionment leads to deepen inner split over seeing the ways out of the abyss. The Chechens are split into factions: pan-Caucasian Islamic fighters, pro-Western and pro-Russian. The last group comprised not only of Kadyrov puppets but also of some Chechen businessmen. I suggest representatives of all these groups create a certain plan of working together. For example, pro-Western groups act mostly on diplomatic field, pro-Caucasian are defending their homeland against Russian-Kadyrov terrorist regime, and some pro-Russian Chechens work with Russian courageous human rights advocates. So, there is ground for the Chechen factions to work together. When you are united you’re stronger!
WaYNaKH Online: Do you have any message to our readers?
Nadezhda Banchik: I suppose most of our readers know well the situation. However, I wish all of us to be more active in defense rights of the Chechen people because they are the most terribly discriminated and outcast in the contemporary world. We should take actions: address our governments, explain the dangers of the abandonment of Chechnya to the world because the more Chechnya becomes lawless the more Russian Mafia-state becomes aggressive and unruly; we should help Chechen refugees in all possible ways.
WaYNaKH Online: Thank you allowed your time for the interview.