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– POPOVA: How similar is the attack on Ukraine over the past 8 years to the attack on Chechnya that took place in the 90s?
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: We were also attacked in such a stupid, rude way. They also attacked here. But it was much tougher back then. All of Chechnya was bombed day and night, its entire territory. The whole territory of Ukraine is not being bombed here. Some places are bombed.
– POPOVA: Probably, because it’s big. Today, Kharkiv is being simply attacked with carpet bombing tactics wherever they can reach.
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: Due to the fact that Chechnya is really not as big as Ukraine, it felt much tougher. It is because the whole city, the capital of Chechnya, was razed to the ground. We see what is happening in Mariupol today. In Mariupol, at least some buildings are still standing, and Azovstal is still standing, it hasn’t been captured yet. The city of Grozny was razed to the ground. Therefore, throughout the entire territory in the forests and mountains, they also bombed day and night using carpet bombing and some kind of depth charges. Everything they had they used in Chechnya. And even some kind of poisonous weapon…
– POPOVA: Chemical weapon.
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: I don’t know whether those were chemical weapons or something else. There were some poisons there. They didn’t have a large range, were used sparingly and they had an effect for several hours, up to a day and then evaporated. They [the russians] were not far away themselves, so that was, probably, the reason. The whole of Chechnya was completely surrounded. Therefore, the russians do not have these different kinds of special operations; they did the same thing in Chechnya, in Ukraine, and in Georgia as well. Stupidly, rudely, they push their soldiers forward without a care, and bury the enemy in their corpses. Those are their entire tactics.
– POPOVA: And bombs. How many Chechens died at that time?
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: In two wars, out of a million people, 300,000 people were killed, 42,000 of them were children. These are the losses we have suffered at the hands of russia.
– POPOVA: Is it true that 4 of your presidents were murdered by russians? And one after negotiations. Tell our viewers, if possible.
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: In the first war, officially, all russia did was sabotage, some attacks, and supplying the opposition. It was like this in 1991. In 1994, they realized that they would not succeed with such help, and on December 11, 1994, russia violated the official border from three sides and attacked Chechnya. We thought that the main target was Dzhokhar Dudayev, our first president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
They hunted him doggedly. On April 21, 1996, there were talks held through some intermediaries. So they made sure to lull our vigilance, and preformed an airstrike when he used a satellite phone to contact some russian intermediaries. There was some businessman named Borovoy from the russian side. When they talked, during this conversation [the russians] detected this signal and carried out a missile strike. This is how they killed Dzhokhar Dudayev. And they thought that with his death the war would be over, that our side would relax, as it were, and we, according to their plans, would have surrendered or scattered. With the help of Almighty God we have stood firm. It wasn’t that we didn’t give up or retreat, on the contrary, we won that war. The Russians were forced to leave Chechnya. This was how we stood firm and won the first war.
– POPOVA: And what happened then?
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev took over as an acting president after the murder. When the russians understood, on 6 August 1996, [we] developed a special operation to liberate the city of Grozny, which was led by Aslan Maskhadov. We captured the city, encircled the troops. This is such a story; you can find out more on the Internet if you are interested. The russian side realized that they are trapped. General Lebed flew in for the talks. The Khasavyurt Accord, ceasefire, the talks. This resulted in the withdrawal of forces and recognition of Chechnya. The troops were completely withdrawn by the end of the year. In 1997, at the start of the year, new elections were held. Aslan Maskhadov won the elections and became the president. After his election, I think in May, there were more talks with the russian president at the time, Yeltsin, they met and signed an agreement on mutual recognition. Russia recognized the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as a state. Agreements were signed by the two presidents. And we were building our own state. Russia, naturally, could not accept its defeat. They were preparing for those three years. And in 1999, on Putin’s orders, blew up their own apartment buildings in russia, FSB, Ryazan.
– POPOVA: Yes, we even have a programme about it. If you haven’t seen it – watch “Rada Natsbezpeky” with Yevgeny Kiselyov.
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: They accused us of doing that and launched the second campaign in 1999. Again, the entire territory was bombed, and troops entered the territory, destroying everything in their path. They learned the lessons of the first war and decided not to enter Grozny with [armoured] columns. They started to surround it and shoot everything that moved, everything that stood, and everything they could see. They destroyed and burned everything. This way, they captured the city of Grozny. At times there were talks, some ceasefires, to collect bodies, to exchange all the captives, but the russians never cared for that. They had no need to recover their captives, and neither did they care for the bodies. This way they, once more, they launched a negotiation and discovered Aslan Maskhadov’s location, and killed him, just like they had killed others earlier. He was surrounded and killed in this shootout, and this wasn’t the first time that this kind of thing had happened.
– POPOVA: Excuse me, were you the one who said that it was dangerous for Zelensky to engage in negotiations even with Putin?
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: We said this to make sure that [you are] ready, so that [you] wouldn’t believe [them], so you’d stay safe and pick a secure location. We have always said this and are saying this now. Because you can’t believe a single word they say, and we are witnesses [of that]. At one time, the second former president, [who took the post] after Dzhokhar and before the election of Maskhadov, Yandarbiyev, left Chechnya. He was in Qatar, from where he helped our fighters. Russian special services detected him there. And, on Friday, after visiting a mosque, [he] went to pray in a mosque, [and they] trapped his car, blew it up. And killed him there. These saboteurs were caught, and they admitted to their crimes. Nevertheless, russia still somehow pulled them out of there and welcomed them as heroes at home. They awarded them the hero of russia, of the Soviet Union. This was how this story unfolded. And the fourth president, after Maskhadov’s murder, was Abdul‑Halim Sadulayev. He was also spotted while traveling in the city of Argun. The fourth president was also killed in a shootout. This is why they thought that with the murders of the president and some other leaders our resistance would wane or, perhaps, we’d make some concessions. We fought to the end, and no-one in the world helped us. We have exhausted everything we had. And, as of today, 95% of Chechnya is under enemy occupation.
– POPOVA: Say, it turns out that Kadyrov collaborated with the russian authorities. But what should Ukraine do to prevent such Kadyrovs from appearing on its occupied territories?
– CHEBERLOEVSKY: You just have to keep working. You shouldn’t agree to any concessions, any ceasefires, any negotiations. This is useless. Russia only negotiates when it stands to benefit, and never engages in negotiations that would help us or create some sort of mutual benefit. They do exactly what benefits them, and exactly when they need it. They never had and never would consider accommodating us. We have an example to ensure this never comes to pass. [You] must defend your territory and fight to liberate it, all of it.
The interview was broadcast on Islnd.TV on 25 April, 2022.