1994: night tank attack on the city of Grozny. Part I

Ex-head of Chechen Nadterechny Region’s administration, ex chairman of Supreme Soviet of Chechen Republic, Umar Avturkhanov tells about his three-year fight against Dudaev’s regime.

Question. Umar, seven years ago, by the night attack on Grozny, military actions on Chechen territory were initiated.

Answer. Yes, at night on 25th to 26th November, the so-called tank attack broadly advirtized by mass media really took place. Though, as a matter of fact, the situation was different. December 1993, the most active levels of Chechen society who were against general Dudaev’s policy, created Provisional Council of Chechen Republic in Urus-Martan settlement. I was elected the chairman of the council. The sitting was carried out in the house of Yusuf Urmuzaev, the head of Urus-Martan District’s administration. We tried to enlist the support of central Russian authorities. We addressed to the Ministry on Nationalities and Regional Policy, leaded by S.Shakhrai. I personally visited Moscow. We did not asked for so much: just to render a material help to us and to supply arms. Why arms? Dudaev’s adherents were at that time armed very well. To successfully resist them in three Chechnya’s regions and settlements which acknowledged our Provisional Council, we had to possess adequate possibilities.

Q. Did you feel the support of Chechen people?

A. Of course! Any other kind of military assistance was out of the question. We asked only for arms. At that time, the situation was unstable. In the republic, there was anarchy. People’s masses were unsatisfied with the regime. February 1992, I was elected the head of Nadterechny Region of Chechnya, because I everywhere declared being opponent of Dudaev’s policy. I occupied this post to the summer of 1995. As I said, we also asked for money. At that time, there was a paradoxical situation in the republic. Since 1992, Chechnya did not pay taxes to the Federal Budget, while receiving money from the budget. All incomes from oil export also remained at the disposal of Dudaev’s brothers-in-arms. Taking into account many-billion sums received through criminal ways, you could imagine which possibilities the rebel general and his surroundings possessed. While people received nothing. Regions resisting Dudaev’s regime did not received money from the budget. We asked for financing separately. Finally, in 1994, something started to change.

Q. Tell me, please, have you always been Dudaev’s opponent?

A. The story is so. In 1991, I was a rather successful businessman, the president of a stock company. Political passions roared in the country, which finally reached our republic. In Grozny’s squares and streets, many-thousand crowds of people appeared: on one hand that were supporters of then-First Secretary of the Regional Committee, Zavgaev, while on the other hand that were general Dudaev’s supporters. At first, I was neutral. I attended at meetings of both groups. Though, gradually, I understood the real essence of the ideas and demands of All-Chechen Congress’s leaders. I understood that people like that could not do Chechen people good. Though, I still was aside. Autumn 1991, an election took place in Chechnya, in which Dudaev won a victory. Lawlessness was literally unlimited during the election. I could see it in Nadterechny Region. We possessed irrefutable proves that the results of the election had been falsified. The Supreme Soviet of Chechen Republic did not recognize the results. The Supreme Soviet issued two decrees about it. While, we, in Nadterechny Region, passed two resolutions: Jokhar Dudaev exists de-fact and possess presidential power, while de-jure we do not recognize him, because he had been elected lawlessly. Afterward, of course, we could not have good relations. Later, the settlements of Nadterechny Region elected Coordiantion Council (in the early 1991), while I became its first chairman. Next February, I was elected the head of the regional administration. In our region, we carried out elections in accordance to Russian legislation. Therefore, my three-year opposition with Dudaev started. Now, the country can every day see faces of Dudaev’s adherents in TV – bandits and terrorists. It doesn’t matter, whether they are now supporters of Basaev, Gelaev or Hattab. In Chechnya, we could see them much earlier, and not only in TV. At that time, all sensible people simply shuddered. Something should be done against that danger. So, we created Provisional Council of Chechen Republic in Urus-Martan. Earlier, there was a Coordination Committee, to which I also belonged, however I did not belong to its Presidium. The first appearance organized by the Coordination Committee took place March 31, 1992. Actually, it should take place April 6. We came to the square and acted not very actively, so we suffered a defeat. At that time, Dudaev remained in power. We understood that we should act more actively and consolidate our forces. In the meanwhile, the situation in the republic became more and more critical. There was no democracy at all, theft, robbery were prospering. As a result, Chechnya suffered probably the most powerful social and economical crash in Russia. Dudaev’s leadership tried to suppress it with an aggressive nationalist anti-Russian rhetoric. Finally, the Russian leadership decided to pay attention to the republic and made a statement about its intention to carry out negotiations with any organiazations, authorities, and social levels acting positively. March 1994, the State Duma passed a decree on situation in the republic and with this decree practically excluded any possibility of negotiations with Dudaev. At that time, Shakhrai already three times suffered defeat in negotiations with Dudaev and was declared enemy number one of Chechen people. While we, as representatives of anti-Dudaev opposition negotiated with the centre and asked for money and arms. Our requests were modest: we asked for 100 barrels for a district. We did not want to carry a war, we just wanted to feel capable to defend ourselves. And we also asked for being financed separately from Dudaev’s Chechnya. Dudaev isolated us from the rest Chechnya, while he himself was isolated from Russia. We did not receive money till Septemeber, 1994. June 4, we carried a congress of Chechen people in Znamenskoye settlement. More than 2,000 delegates came to the congress, spite all menaces from the regime. Among the delegates, there were even four field commanders. And suddenly we received a report, that from Goragorskaya settlement, a column of about 500 people was moving toward us. The column was sent by Dudaev to disperse our congress. I did foresee that something like that would happen. So, we made an ambush on their way. Moreover, some of their commanders were present in the congress. So, after having seen that everything was quiet and there was no war, they went away. At that congress, I made a report: about the done work, about some measures, about our plans for reestablishing normal life. My actions were approved of as well as my candidacy as the leader of the Provisional Council. With this decision of the congress, we came to Moscow, where I presented my authority. Shakhrai started negotiations again, but I saw that nobody would help us.

Q. So, the question was about Sergei Shakhrai?

A. No, I felt that Sergei Shakhrai really wanted to solve these problems, thought there were also some other persons who surrounded the President and who were of a different view. I know, that many people do not like Shakhrai, though I am sure, at that time he really wanted to help Chechnya and Russia.

Umar Avturkhanov was interviewed by Ilay Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru To be continued...

Translated by Vera Solovieva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/30/40559.html

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