Focus Of The Press: Chechen Terrorists' Action In Istanbul

On the night of April 24 a group of Chechens seized the posh Swissotel in Istanbul and held the hotel guests - citizens of Japan, France, Britain, the USA and other countries as hostages for about 12 hours. The terrorists declared that they had made this step in protest against Russia's action in Chechnya. Moscow newspapers are running numerous commentaries on this event, in which they note that Turkish authorities treat Chechen terrorists with indulgence. Trud stresses that "the group of 13 Chechen raiders was led by Muhammed Tokchan, notorious for his participation in hostilities in Abkhazia (self-proclaimed republic within Georgia) and Chechnya. In January 1996, he organized the seizure of the Russian motor ship Avrasia in one of the Turkish ports. The Istanbul court sentenced Tokchan to eight years and ten months in prison, however, in October 1997 he escaped from the prison. After that Tokchan was arrested once more - for using a fake passport. However, he was released under amnesty, which he used to commit another terrorist act. This testifies to the Turkish authorities' irresponsibility, if not connivance, with regard to Chechen extremists". The newspaper Vremya Novostei writes: "The Turkish authorities hastened to dissociate themselves from what had happened. Premier Bulent Ecevit said that giving shelter in Turkey to the persons who support Chechen militants is out of the question. "Although Chechens are our brothers, we would never justify their actions aimed against Turkey"; said Ecevit. Sinon Okan, an expert at one of the leading Turkish research centers "Asam", claimed in a talk with our correspondent that Turkey was not helping militants: 'After Kasyanov's (head of the Russian government - Ed.) visit to Istanbul, many Chechen organizations were closed here, even those that had conducted purely humanitarian work. Many people of Caucasian decent are dissatisfied with this and possibly just try to take revenge. However, Ankara does not back this, of course. We are in the grips of an economic crisis and were are waiting for Russian tourists impatiently'. However, the incident in the hotel allows one to doubt whether this is true," believes the newspaper. In the commentator's estimate, Moscow's sharp reaction has surpassed all expectations. Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov said that Chechen terrorists, "regrettably, are still feeling at home in Turkey". The article also cites the opinion of an anonymous Kremlin executive, who considers the Swissotel incident and the recent reception of Chechen "minister" Ilyas Akhamadov in the US department of state as "the links of one chain". "Apart from that, there is information that US officials meet representatives of Chechen bandit formations in third countries. Regrettably, such actions inspire Chechen terrorists and their patrons, who are taking more and more brazen actions", stated the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Novye Izvestia expresses the following supposition: "It is not ruled out that the organizer of the hotel's seizure, Muhammed Tokchan, may escape from the prison again or be amnestied. The Turkish authorities' very indulgent attitude to such figures - is far from the only example. A. Tagayev, one of the leaders of Dagestan's Wahhabi movement, who had stayed in Turkey on forged documents, was set free in Istanbul last year. And this is despite the fact that Russia and Turkey have signed a declaration on combating terrorism. Apart from that, Moscow has repeatedly drawn the Turkish authorities' attention to the stay in Turkey of Movladi Udugov and other known representatives of Chechen terrorists". Commersant writes on the same subject: "Russia has long been reproaching Turkey for closing its eyes, at least, to the activity of the Chechen separatists who have entrenched themselves in its territory. Yesterday, spokesmen for Russian secret services made public a whole list of claims to the Turkish authorities, which have accumulated of late. They recalled that Tagayev, one of the leaders of Dagestan's Wahhabi movement was set free in Istanbul last year. That notorious Ichkeria's leaders (like Movladi Udugov) are not only staying in Turkey but also freely conducting activities hostile to Russia. That Chechen militants are undergoing medical treatment in Turkish hospitals. Moscow is also dissatisfied with the fact that Ankara is no way preventing the work of about 80 various organizations of the North-Caucasian diaspora. The majority of them are giving Chechen bandit formations material and moral support ... Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem will visit Moscow this week. So, he is to hear all the claims, concludes the newspaper.

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