by Eric Margolis
PARIS -- A month ago, this column predicted that Russian hardliners were on
the verge of seizing total power in a `stealthy coup. Twenty-six days
later, President Boris Yeltsin stunned the world by resigning and handing
over power to a junta of KGB `Chekists and senior generals led by former
spy and now Acting President, Vladimir Putin.
Yeltsin agreed to resign in return for immunity for himself and his family
from prosecution for massive corruption. The era of Weimar Russia was
ended, and the wests $100 billion plus investment in Yeltsins `democratic
Russia a total loss. The Clinton Administration and its media backers
tried to cover up the magnitude of this catastrophe by echoing Russian
propaganda claims that Putin and his cronies were `clean; `youthful
reformers; `covert democrats, and crusaders against terrorism.
Far from reform, what we are seeing in Moscow is the seizure of political
and, increasingly, economic power by younger generation of KGB officers,
like Putin, from the old First Chief Directorate(Foreign Intelligence).
Forget the beetle-browed KGB thugs of the 1950s. These 80s and 90s vintage
agents, particularly those from KGB Lines PR and X, are hard-edged,
sophisticated, worldly professionals.
Putin and his junta gained power by whipping up traditional Russian racial
and religious hatred for Muslim Chechen, then launching a merciless
campaign to exterminate the Caucasian rebels. Moscow, in the usual style
of international malefactors, used the Christmas/New Year holidays to mask
its attempted storming of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and laying waste to
the rest of the tiny republic of 1.5 million people.
The valiant Chechen mujihadin, however, refused to surrender. Some 1,500
Chechen fighters dug into the ruins of Grozny have managed to defend the
city against ferocious assaults of some 60,000-80,000 Russian troops for
the past month. Russian generals claimed the would conquer Grozny two
Russian forces are mercilessly pounding the city to rubble with massed
batteries of heavy artillery and heavy rocket launchers, as well as carpet
bombing and strikes by ground-attack aircraft and helicopter gunships.
Forty thousand Chechen civilians are trapped in the city, cowering in
shelters with little food or water.
Russia is violating all norms of warfare and numerous international
conventions by making extensive use of fuel air explosive delivered by
aircraft and rockets. These weapons release a fine mist of explosive fuel
over a target, then detonate. The resulting massive explosions are of
enormous destructive power second only to tactical nuclear weapons. All of
the oxygen under the blast zones football-filed sized footprint is burned
up, sucking the air out of the lungs of victims. Devastating overpressure
ruptures internal organs and kill anyone sheltering in basements or
Grozny and most other Chechen towns have been blasted to ruins by fuel air
and conventional explosives. The Russians have showered tens of thousands
of anti-personnel mines in the mountainous south in an effort to seal the
border with Georgia. Foreign journalists are being kept out of the war
zone lest they report details of Russias latest slaughter of the
rebellious Chechen. Even this writer has received a steady stream of
organized threatening email from Russia. Almost all news on the conflict
comes from Moscows propaganda organs who keep repeating the mantra that
Chechen are `Islamic terrorists where have we heard this before - who must
Ironically, while the US wrung its hands over the possible threat of
terrorism during millenium celebrations, Russia was committing one of the
worst acts of international terrorism of our era in Chechnya. Washington
issued a few tut-tuts over Russias brutal actions, but continued to back
Russia with diplomatic support and billions of cash.
As Russian poured shells on the Chechen for daring to seek independence
from 300 years of brutal colonial rule by Moscow, President Bill Clinton
actually described Russias siege of Grozny a `liberation. The same Clinton
who hailed Yeltsin as `a Russian Abraham Lincoln after Russian forces
massacred 100,000 Chechen in 1994-1996.
Why this nauseating sycophancy? Because Clinton agreed to give Moscow a
free hand in Chechnya in exchange for Moscow allowing the US to keep
bashing away at Iraq. Clintons key financial backers want Iraq destroyed.
Chechen will pay the price for the ex-presidents political and financial
Meanwhile, bands of fierce Chechen fighters continue one of our eras most
heroic struggles. The courage of these mountain men is almost beyond
comprehension. They are lightly armed, surrounded, low on munitions and
supplies, hopelessly outnumbered 100 to one, under constant bombardment,
and forgotten. Their voice goes unheard beneath a barrage of Russian
disinformation and propaganda, echoed by so-called `counter-terrorism
experts in the western media, who assure us Chechen are nothing more than
dangerous Islamic terrorists and kidnappers.
A handful of fighters from Ukraine, Jordan, and the Baltic have come to
help; otherwise, the world has left the Chechen to be ground into bloody
pulp by Russias killing machine a crime largely financed by US and western
Clinton has hailed the Putin regime as `new, democratic Russian leaders.
In fact, the Chekists and generals now running the Kremlin look very much
like the old, brutal Soviet Russia, only this time less ideological and
more efficiently ruthless.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and
broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 2000 Eric Margolis - All Rights