MEMO TO CIA FROM KGB DEFECTOR, ANATOLY GOLITSYN, 1 FEBRUARY 1995 (Taken from his book, Perestroika Deception, Edward Harle Limited, 1998, ISBN 1-899798-03-X, pp 224-225).
THE EVENTS IN CHECHNYA EXPLAINED IN TERMS OF RUSSIAN STRATEGY
The events in Chechnya, like the events of August 1991 and October 1993, have been deliberately staged largely for Western consumption by the Kremlin strategists in the pursuit of their objectives. One indication of this is the timing of the events. Chechnya declared its independence from Russian in 1991. Yet for three years the Russians did not react, other than ineffectually. Why did they do so only at the end of 1994?
Independence for Chechnya is a wholly artificial concept. Although my own sympathies are for the Chechens, their territory has no direct access to the outside world The Chechens lost half their numbers in exile under Stalin. By 1994 50% of the population of Chechnya were ethnic Russians. Russians control the pipeline to Noverossiisk, giving them powerful leverage in the area. Given these circumstances the idea of a serious Chechen independence struggle is a non-starter.
Equally artificial is the Russian choice of method for dealing with Chechen aspirations. The Yeltsin Government inherited over 70 years worth of Soviet experience of dealing politically and militarily with nationalist opposition in the Republics. Yet it chose to wield an enormous military sledgehammer to crack a small nut in Chechnya, when the only rational way to handle the situation would have been the path of negotiation leading to a peaceful settlement as in the case of Tatarstan.
In earlier Memoranda I suggested that the confrontation between Yeltsin and his then Vice-President Rutskoi and the parliamentary Speaker Khasbulatova confrontation which culminated in the televised bombardment of the White House in Moscow [a new kind of Reichstag Fire: see page 163] was contrived by the strategists with Rutskoi and Khasbulatov playing the role of provocateurs. The release and amnesty granted to Rutskoi and Khasbulatov after a ludicrously truncated period of imprisonment was consistent with their having played such a provocative role.
Frequent press mentions during December 1994, in the Chechnyan context, of Khasbulatov, himself a Chechen, provided a possible pointer to provocation there: he could well have played a role behind the scenes as an advisor to the Chechen Fighters. Another pointer to the likelihood of provocation ins Dzhokhar Dudayevs own background. Like Shevardnadze in Georgia and Aliyev in Azerbaijan, Dudayev is a former Communist. He is also a former Soviet Air Force General.
The conduct of the Chechnyan operation raises a number of questions. For instance: why, given the vast military and secret police experience at their disposal, did the Russians choose to dispatch in to Chechnya in the first place, inexperienced young Soviet army draftees who put up a poor performance in front of Western television cameras? Why were the Russian special forces who, for example, captured General Pal Maleter during the Hungarian upheaval of 1956, too inept to capture any of the Chechen leaders? How did the Chechen Fighters come to be so well armed? Why did the army and Ministry of the Interior troops not take immediate action to surround the city of Grozny and cut off the one route which remained available for the movement of Chechen Fighters and supplies in and out of the city centre?
Why, with their huge preponderance of firepower, did it take the Russians so long to capture the Presidential Palace, the symbolic centre of Chechen resistance? Why, before the Palace fell, were its Chechen defenders, according to their own accounts, allowed to leave, taking their Russian prisoners with them, so that they were free to continue the struggle elsewhere? Why was the bombardment of buildings in the centre of Grozny conducted with what Chancellor Kohl described as senseless madness? And why, as the Chechen fighters took to the hills, was a local guerrilla leader willing to receive a Western journalist in his own home in a mountain village without disguise, providing his full name and a history of his family? [The New York Times, 20 January 1995].
I am skeptical about much of the Western press and television coverage of Chechnya. In the first place, coverage was restricted by various factors. For example, Western access to Russian troops engaged in the operation was severely limited according to John Dancey, the NBC News correspondent in Moscow, speaking on the Donahue-Pozner Program on 12 January 1995. The bombardment itself was a powerful disincentive to intrusive journalism, and reporters obviously cannot be blamed for their inability to provide a coherent account of the fighting which took place in the centre of Grozny.
The important general point is the Western press and TV representatives reported the events as Westerners observing what they took to be a real conflict in a free society. It is not their fault that they were not briefed concerning the possibilities of provocation along Communist lines. Hence they were not looking for evidence of mock confrontations, faked casualties of planted information. The prominent Western reporters themselves, though courageous, appeared young and lacking in experience as war correspondents.
Nevertheless, some revealing items surfaced in the coverage. For example, the New York Times reported on 15 January that some of the least serious of the Chechen fighters would parade before the cameras at the Minutka traffic circle. That report prompted questions as to how many serious Chechen fighters were actually involved in action against Russian troops. Another report insisted that the last Western reporters had left the area of the Presidential Palace, where the murderous fighting was concentrated and that Chechen fighters were no longer able to move easily to the south of the city in order to brief journalists about what was happening. It seems therefore that there were no Western eyewitnesses of the final battle for the Palace, and that much of the evidence on the fighting was derived from Chechen fighters, whose reliability the reporters were no position to assess.
Two Western reporters were killed during these events. Though these deaths were reported as accidental, the fact is that the Russians would have no compunction about eliminating Western journalists if they thought they might be liable to expose their provocation. It was no coincidence that 40 Russian rockets were targeted at, and hit, Minutka Circlewhich up to that moment had been favoured for meetings between journalists and fighters. Almost certainly, Russian officers who told journalists that they had arrived in Grozny without maps were briefed to tell this tall story. A Russian General who was shown on television going through photographs taken by reporters, said the pictures they had taken were useful because they helped him to assess what was going on in Grozny. In all likelihood, he was checking to make sure that the photographs taken by the reporters conveyed the images the Russian wanted conveyed for international public consumption.
The spectacular and continuous bombardment of buildings in the centre of Grozny, many of them probably empty, struck me as deliberately designed to monopolise television cameras, replicating in many ways the Reichstag Fire bombardment of the White House in Moscow in October 1993.
Inevitably, the detonation of so much high explosive was accompanied by casualties. But the actual number of casualties was probably limited by the departure of many inhabitants of the centre of Grozny before the bombardment started in earnest. As early as 7 January 1995, the Red Cross reported that 350,000 people had fled from the fighting, a figure equivalent to over 80% of the population of Grozny. It would be interesting to know to what extent the authorities encouraged or arranged the evacuation of central Grozny before the bombardment began.
Verification of casualty number is the most difficult problem. According to Dudayev, cited in The New York Times of 12 January, 18,000 Chechens had already died, a figure which the reporter said seems exaggerated. Casualty figures for the Russian army quoted in The New York Times of 17 January varied from 400 to 800 killed. Again there is no knowing whether these figures were exaggerated or minimized. The Russian authorities are reported to have delayed the admission of European observers interested in verifying numbers. Even if they were eventually to arrive on the scene, such observers would be unlikely to be able to check the numbers allegedly buried in mass graves. Total casualties will probably never be known with any certainty. From the Kremlin strategists point of view, casualties are inevitable during this kind of operation and a necessary price to pay of the attainment of defined strategic objectives.
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