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New Chechen Leader Tells RFE/RL: No Terrorism, No Hostage-Taking

(Prague, Czech Republic–June 3, 2005) New Chechen resistance leader Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev told RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service today that he strongly condemns terrorism and that Chechen independence fighters will not attack peaceful civilians, women and children, and will not take them hostage. Sadullaev emphasized that the resistance will continue to attempt to inflict maximum damage on Russian armed forces and Russian military targets, but would try to avoid injuring civilians.

Sadullaev’s statement was made in response to email questions submitted by RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service, which broadcasts in the Chechen, Avar and Circassian languages to the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation.

Sadullaev, a young man in his 30s, was virtually unknown until he was named Chechen president three months ago, following the killing of his predecessor Aslan Maskhadov. It is not known what role Sadullaev may have played in the Moscow theater hostage-taking in October 2002 or last September’s hostage-taking in Beslan. Russian officials blamed both Maskhadov and radical field commander Shamil Basaev for those terrorist acts, although Mashkadov also spoke publicly against the use of terrorist tactics.

Asked about his relations with Basaev, Sadullaev hinted at disagreements among the Chechen resistance leadership, but did not mention Basaev by name. Sadullaev said he is trying to maintain unity within the resistance and channel its efforts in a single direction, and for that reason he will neither sever relations with anyone or try to force anyone to cooperate against his will. “Our nation is very small,” he pointed out, and so unity is of paramount importance.” Chechnya has not been recognized internationally as a sovereign state.

Sadullaev said Maskhadov’s death has not resulted in any “hasty” changes in tactics and that Chechens will not give up their goal of independence.”Our forces are not becoming weaker, and we are prepared to go on fighting.” Sadullaev said, adding that “freedom is impossible in an unfree country, and in an unfree country human rights are worthless and cannot be protected. Russia has shown us this yesterday and continues to do so today.”

In response to a question about the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sadullaev said, “It was Putin who began this war and he has no way to end it. The war cannot end with us being forced to our knees and capitulating, and Putin has left himself without an alternative.”

An article, featuring translations into English of many of Sadullaev’s responses to the questions posed by the North Caucasus Service, can be found on the RFE/RL website.