In an exclusive interview with Aljazeera.net on Monday, Chechnya's deputy foreign minister in exile said more than 28% of the population had died in a country that only had a population of just over a million.

Usman Ferzaouli added it was hard to understand the world's silence about "a genocide that has killed over a quarter of all the Chechen people".

"Stalin may have been brutal, but at least he didn't kill us like the 150,000 Russian troops currently stationed in Chechnya – 'policing' a nation of well under 710,000."

Ferzaouli made the comment at the start of a two-day visit to Qatar.

His first official duty was to pay his respects to the widow of Salim Khan Yandarbiyev – the former Chechen president who died last February when a bomb ripped through his car after Friday prayers.

A widow’s testimony

Yandarbiyev’s widow, Malika, told Aljazeera.net Russia's public assassination of her husband should ring alarm bells in  Europe.

"Stalin may have been brutal, but at least he didn't kill us like the 150,000 Russian troops currently stationed in Chechnya – 'policing' a nation of well under 710,000"

Usman Ferzaouli
Chechen diplomat

"If the Russians can get away with this in Qatar, then surely the UK and Denmark should consider the possibility of car bombs killing Chechen representatives in the streets of London or Copenhagen.

"My husband's only 'crime' was to not back down on total independence. He never condoned any form of terrorism – especially the attacks in Moscow - but supported a legitimate struggle against a colonial power."

Malika condemned Moscow's branding of the Chechen struggle as 'terrorism' – pointing out that the Russian army has killed thousands of women and children.

Her own 12-year-old son, Dawud, was in the car when the bomb went off. He has lost hearing in one ear and still has shrapnel around his left eye and in his right leg.

Private visit

The late Yandarbiyev, just two
months before he was killed

After visiting Yandarbiyev’s grave, the deputy foreign minister said he appreciated the way Qatar was dealing with the assassination and was confident that justice would be done.

Two GRU Russian security advisers have been arrested in connection with the assassination.

Ferzaouli also carried a letter for Qatar’s amir, Hamad Al-Thani, from Chechen diplomat Ahmad Zakayev to thank Doha for its efforts in dealing with "Russian state-sponsored terrorism".

Integrity and vision

The deputy minister had known the former Chechen president for more than 15 years and had always been "impressed by his integrity and vision".

"Yandarbiyev was a great man. He was probably the main personality in the drive for Chechen independence.

"Though he made no public interviews in the year before his death – his only crime was to express his opinion that our country should be free.

"On the few diplomatic missions he engaged in over the last three years, his only message to Islamic and Western countries was 'even if you won’t help us, at least don’t be against us'."