How dangerous is the Sunni-Shia schism?

In 2014, with the Middle East convulsed by the murderous, self-styled Islamic State, a Daily Mail reader wrote a letter to the editor which began: ‘Are you confused by what is going on in the Middle East? Let me explain…’ Aubrey Bailey went on to describe the dizzying complexity of diplomatic relationships thrown into turmoil: So, some of our friends support our enemies and some of our enemies are our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting our other enemies, whom we don’t want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win… And all this was started by us invading a country

A 1,000-mile trek through the Caucasus finally clears the mind

It takes a brave writer, even in an age transfixed by the workings of our inner woo, to bare their soul on the page. Tom Parfitt, a former Moscow correspondent, was scarred by the horrifying Beslan school siege and massacre which he saw unfold in North Ossetia in 2004. For years he was haunted by a recurring dream of ‘endless purgatory’ in which a grief-stricken woman, who has just learnt that her child has been killed in the terrorist attack, falls through the air, groaning like a wounded animal. There are scrapes and scares – how could there not be? Wolves, bears and dogs are regular worries An outdoors type

Inside Putin’s mind: the lessons of Chechnya

As far as Vladimir Putin is concerned, ‘we are nobody, while he who chance has enabled to clamber to the top of the pile is today Tsar and God’. So said Anna Politkovskaya, the eminent Russian journalist, in her book Putin’s Russia. She continued: ‘In Russia we have had leaders with this outlook before. It led to tragedy, to bloodshed on a huge scale, to civil wars. I want no more of that.’ She wrote those prophetic words almost two decades ago. A reporter for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya came to prominence during the second Chechen war. Her accounts of that conflict, which officially lasted from 1999 to

Ukrainians fear Chechen fighters. Russian soldiers hate them

Residents fleeing the Kiev suburb of Bucha reported Chechens machine-gunning cars, even those with the word ‘children’ written in their windscreens. The arrival of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who claims to lead a force of 10,000 of his countrymen, will have unnerved Ukrainian volunteers defending their city. When the Chechens intervened in eastern Ukraine in 2014, they gained a reputation for undue cruelty. ‘There were stories of Kadyrov’s guys castrating prisoners of war,’ one woman with family still living in the Donbas told me.  Ukrainian fighters won’t be the only ones feeling nervous. Russia’s military has had an acrimonious relationship with the Chechen leader stretching back nearly two decades. I