No. 1192, September 17, 2004
American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, DC
Washington worries over democratic rollback;
Putin: Western governments soft on terror
Interfax reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected criticism by Washington of President Vladimir Putin’s moves to centralize power, insisting the measures are an “internal matter.” Secretary of State Colin Powell had told Reuters after the measures were announced that Russia was “pulling back on some of the democratic reforms.” Lavrov said in his response that the United States “also adopted quite strict measures” after the September 11th terrorist attacks and that it was “strange” Powell had “tried to assert yet again the notion that democracy can only be copied from someone’s model.” Lavrov added that Russia does not comment on the fact that U.S. presidents are not elected by a direct vote.
In a rare rebuke of an ally, President George W. Bush has also expressed concern that President Putin’s latest moves “could undermine democracy in Russia,” the
Washington Post reports. “Great countries, great democracies have a balance of power between central government and local governments, a balance of power within central governments between the executive branch and the legislative branch and the judicial branch,” Bush said. “As governments fight the enemies of democracy, they must uphold the principles of democracy.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, meanwhile, reports that some Russian observers believe Moscow and Washington are headed for a new Cold War.
Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev has claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege, the suicide bombing near a Moscow metro station and the crash of two airliners, which together claimed more than 400 lives. In an e-mail posted by the Kavkaz-Tsenter website, Basayev said 33 “mujahideen” were involved in the school siege – twelve Chechen men, two Chechen women, nine Ingush, three Russians, two Arabs, two Ossetians, a Tatar, a Kabardin and a Guran (a Russified indigenous group from the Baikal region). Basayev said his group had received less than $15,000 from abroad this year and is “using money from the Russian budget only.” He also said he had not met Osama bin Laden or received money from him but “would not have declined the offer.”
The government of Lithuania, where Kavkaz-Tsenter is hosted, has announced it will soon close down the Chechen separatist website, Interfax reports. “The website does instigate ethnic and religious strife, therefore we decided… to issue recommendations on its closure in the near future,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said following a meeting of the country’s State Defense Council. The website was blocked shortly after it published Basayev’s e-mail.
The Ulyanovsk region’s amnesty commission has pardoned Yuri Budanov, NEWSru.com reports. The former army colonel and tank commander was sentenced last year to ten years in prison for the abduction and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Elsa Kungayeva. President Vladimir Putin must approve the pardon for it to take effect.
President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of indulging terrorists, Reuters reports. “A patronizing and indulgent attitude to the murderers amounts to complicity in terror,” Putin told an international meeting of city mayors. He compared calls to negotiate with Chechen separatists to appeasement of Nazi Germany. “I urge you to remember the lessons of history, the amicable deal (with Adolf Hitler) in Munich in 1938... Of course, the scale of consequences is different... But the situation is very similar. Any surrender leads to them widening their demands and makes losses worse.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has denounced Shamil Basayev. “He has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is inhuman,” he told a news conference in Warsaw. “Anyone who would use (the killing of) innocents for political aims is not worthy of existence in the type of society that we endorse.”
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