Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chechnya:The Unreported War

Today most media companies report the vast majority of conflicts that occur around the world. Most cases of ethnic cleansing and genocide are usually reported on by the media on a daily basis, as is the case with the Darfur region and the Palestinian conflict to name but a few. However, there is one particular region that most people know very little about and despite there being a bloody conflict which is ongoing, the situation in the Chechen Republic Of Ichkeria.

Chechnya has attempted to assert it's independence from the Russians every time the former superpower has faced political uncertainty. Ever since the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 there has been attempted uprisings by the Chechen people to secure their right to national sovreignty. In the aftermath of the second Word War, Stalin deported most of the local Chechen population to Siberia and Kazakstan. This, he said, was to punish the Chechen people for their supposed assistance to the Germans. In actuallity, the Germans never mad it to the border with Chechnya.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the states controlled by the USSR broke away from Russia and for their own states, such as Georgia and Kazakhstan. Boris Yeltsin, the then leader of the new Russian Federation, declared that Chechnya had no right to seceed under the new constitution. This was mainly due to the fact that Checnya had a vast oil infrastructure which Russia was not prepared to give up. This would lead to the outbreak of the First Chechen War.

The First Chechen War lasted between 1994 and 1996. It was started by the Russians in order to deny Chenyna's right to independence and in order to hold onto the precious oil reserves. Although the Russian military forces were extremely well equipt, they were unable to establish a proper foothold due to the expertise of the Chechen guerilla fighters. Due to widespread demoralisation on the Russian side, Boris Yelsin called a ceasefire in 1996 and eventually signed a peace treaty. Casualties were extremly high on both sides but due to the banning of many reporters from enetering Chechnya, it is difficult to obtain an accurate figure. Some say there was a combined figure of 46,500 deaths but others say these figures could be nearer the 100,000 mark.

The Second Chechen War began for two main reasons, the first being the Chechen rebels assisting neighbouring Dagestan in asserting it's independance. In August of 1999, the mudjahadeen leader from Chechnya, Shamil Basayev, led a small group of militants in order to remove the Russia presence from the area. They were eventually pushed back by Russian bombardment. During this time, starting on the 4th of September 1999, a series of bombings shook Russia. These bombings took place on various civilian targets such as apartment blocks and a shopping mall. 300 people, mostly civilians, were killed in these attacks. The Russian government immediatly blamed Chechen seperatists for the attacks, however the leaders of the movement vehemently denied this. Many people speculate that these attacks were carried out by the FSB (formerly the KGB) in order to have a valid reason to invade Chechnya once again. Many people, such as U.S. Senator John McCain and former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko(The Russian murdered recently in England) believed this to be true.

The day after the bombing of an apartment block in Russia, the invasion began. Russia launched a massive air campaign and literally bombed Chechnya out of all recognition. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes and many were killed. After the former head of the FSB, Vladamir Putin, became prime minister of the Russian Federation on October 1st 1999, he declared the Chechen president and parliament illegitimate. Instances of the Russian military targetting civilian targets were widespread, such as the cluster-bombing of the village of of Elistanzhi, which killed 48 people, mostly women and children. After almost 6 months of bloody fighting, the Chechens were pushed back and in February 2000 the Siege of Grozny occured.

During the Siege of Gronzny, bothe sides suffered heavy losses and the city itself was basically leveled by Russia artillery and airstrikes. In 2003 the United Nations described Grozny as the most destroyed city in the world. The main fighting itself ended in late April 2003 when the now president Vladamir Putin established direct rule over Chechnya and the resistance withdrew to the mountains. Putin then put in Akhmad Kadyrov as the interim head of the newly established, pro-Russian Chechen government. During the so-called elections, independent monitors claimed there was widespread intimidation by Russian soldiers and by Kadyrov's personal militia. Many of the supporters of the true Chechen government chose to boycott the election.

The war still continues in Chechnya to this day with operations being carried out against Russian forces and pro-Russian militias daily. Unfortunately, there seems to be an increase in and Islamic element to the conflict as Checnya is a predominantly Muslim country. This can be seen in the recent use of suicide bombings and in tragedies such as the Beslan School siege and the theatre siege in Moscow. However, isn't it odd how these two events recieved huge media coverage, yet the ongoing denial of the Chenchen peoples' right to national sovreignty and the genocide of there people goes widely unreported?

If you want to know more about the conflict in Chechnya I strongly suggest you watch 'Dispatches: Chechnya, The Dirty War'.

Link to it here :http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1905120016784618282&q=chechnya+the+dirty+war&total=6&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=1

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