Simon Heffer

Why we must not appease the Kremlin

Russia’s continuing brutality in Chechnya is the root cause of the Beslan massacre. So why does Blair grovel to Putin? The answer, says Simon Heffer, is oil

Russia’s continuing brutality in Chechnya is the root cause of the Beslan massacre. So why does Blair grovel to Putin? The answer, says Simon Heffer, is oil

Were any of us unlucky enough to be Vladimir Putin, we too would be keen to make the rest of the world think that what happened in Beslan last week was yet another chapter in al-Qa’eda’s campaign of international terrorism. Luckily, you would have some evidence to bear out your theory. Some of the hostage-takers were Arab mercenaries. Some Chechen separatists have been trained abroad and have received funding from international organisations. There is evidence that an externally inspired campaign is under way not so much to secure Chechen independence from Russia as to destabilise that whole region, setting predominantly Muslim Ingus against predominantly Christian Ossetians. Yes, if you were Mr Putin you would not wish to suggest in any way that your own prehistoric policy towards Chechnya — one of many brutal, offensive and downright unacceptable ways in which you have behaved over the last five years or so — was more to blame than ‘international terrorism’.

Before the West rushes to welcome Mr Putin’s Russia into the family of shared suffering caused by terrorism, it might care to pause and reflect on the real nature of the state whose people suffered this ghastly tragedy in Beslan; and on the real nature of its government. To use a phrase fashionably in the news in another context, Russia is a kleptocracy. It is in many respects, and increasingly, a gangster state. Its politicians and officialdom are widely and systematically corrupt. Its recent presidential elections were rigged. Its media are not free — this week the editor of Izvestia was sacked for criticising Mr Putin’s Chechnya policies. The observation of basic human rights is in many respects no better than under the old Soviet regime.

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