Saudi Arabia welcomes Moscow 'puppet'

Chechnya's discredited president is visiting Saudi Arabia to drum up support for Russia's brutal war against the Chechen resistance.

    Kadyrov has survived several assassination attempts

    Akhmad Kadyrov, who is widely dismissed as Moscow's puppet, said

    on Wednesday his visit

    to Saudi Arabia showed there was international

    recognition of his rule and Russia's anti-separatist campaign.

    During his first trip abroad as president of Chechnya since

    his victory in an internationally-criticised October election,

    he will meet Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd al-Aziz.

    "I think the most important factor is that Prince Abd Allah

    invited the leaders of the Chechen Republic. This is a definite

    recognition of the current authorities," he said at a

    Moscow airport before leaving for the desert kingdom.

    In 1996, Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines,

    called Moscow's campaign against separatists in the

    mainly-Muslim region of Chechnya "foreign tyranny" at the height

    of a war which is still unresolved.

    "I would also say that (the trip) is recognition that the

    operation that is going on (against separatists) is not against

    the people or against Muslims"

    Akhmad Kadyrov,
    Chechen president

    Rebel funding

    Moscow-Riyadh relations have also been strained by Russian

    allegations of Saudi funding for Chechen rebels.

    But Kadyrov, a former rebel and Chechen religious leader,

    said his trip showed relations had improved and that Riyadh was

    preventing money being sent to the separatists.

    "I would also say that (the trip) is recognition that the

    operation that is going on (against separatists) is not against

    the people or against Muslims," he said.

    Kadyrov said he would discuss possible Saudi

    investment during his three-day visit, which will also take in

    meetings with the defence and health ministers.

    "I do not think any documents will be signed... but we have

    received offers of investment in the oil sector," he said.

    'Collaborator'

    Kadyrov is the key figure in Moscow's peace plans in

    Chechnya, but rebels who

    refuse to surrender consider him a collaborator. 


    His election last October completed a remarkable turnaround for the former mufti who once called on Chechens to fight a jihad against the Russians.

    But he later abandoned his comrades-in-arms to become head of Chechnya's brutal pro-Kremlin administration.

    This earned him the undying hatred of Chechen resistance fighters, who have since regularly targeted him in assassination attempts.

    Russia's army has been blasted
    for rights abuses in Chechnya

    War casualties

    Russian troops poured into Chechnya in October 1999, in an "anti-terror" campaign launched by then prime minister Vladimir Putin.

    The republic had won de facto independence from Russia after a 1994-96 war, but it was overwhelmed by violence and kidnappings during the interim period.

    The official Russian military toll from the second war is estimated at up to 5000 soldiers, although rights groups believe the figure may be closer to 12,000.

    Russia says that up to 15,000 Chechen rebels have been killed, although the official civilian toll has never been published.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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