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Beslan trial – an opportunity

The trial of Nur-Pashi Kulayev begins today.  Kulayev was the sole surviving member of the group of terrorists that took hostage and killed hundreds of children in a Beslan school last September. 

That Kulayev took part in the raid is beyond doubt.  He was dragged out from underneath a truck near to the school, and has admitted that he was involved.  Kulayev denies charges of murder, however, claiming that he was forced to take part in the raid, and that he only ever fired into the air.  He says that he had been told their mission was to attack a Russian army checkpoint, and it was only when he got to the school that their true mission was revealed, at which point, he had no chance of escape.

There is extreme pressure on the court in this case.  The Russian people, and particularly the people of Beslan will want to see concrete proof that the perpetrators of this atrocity are not only being brought to justice, but are being punished.  I have no idea whether Kulayev actually was press-ganged into service or not, but I hope that the court will take this opportunity to investigate his claims fully, and not brush them under the carpet in its desire for a quick verdict.

If Kulayev’s really was press-ganged into participating in the raid, Russia has the opportunity to deliver a PR coup of massive proportions.  If the court can demonstrate that Shamil Basayev has so little support among his own men for such hiedous acts of terrorism that he has to force men at gunpoint to kill children, then fear of Basayev can move away from the fear that he can influence public opinion in Chechnya towards a simple fear of the man’s ruthless methods. 

1 comment

  • Sort of like how Russia has so little domestic support for their policies in Chechnya that they have to forcibly round up 18-year-olds every spring in order to have people to keep sending down there?

    Or deceive men from the impoverished regions of Russia about the conditions of work to induce them to sign up as contract soldiers?

    OK, I’ll stop being a smart-ass long enough to say thanks for bringing this to general attention – you are right about the potential PR upside for Moscow, but the Kremlin’s record in the past couple of years of reaping potential PR benefits that were out there for the taking has not been good.

    By the way, the latest story (from late last week) about the mistreatment of contract soldiers (to say nothing of the situation among the ranks of draftees, where hazing and other abuses continue) was broken by the newspaper Trud and can be read (in Russian) on the Echo of Moscow radio website:

    The story (this is just my quick synopsis, not a word-for-word translation) is that soldiers in the 42nd motorized division were hired to serve in Chechnya on a contract basis and were promised enough money to make them well-to-do upon their return home (this promise, which seems to be fulfilled at least sometimes, is the main reason people enlist for contract service in the Russian army). But after they signed up, they were forced to pay for their uniforms, fed so inadequately that they had to buy additional provisions, and – most outrageous – they were told to buy spare parts to fix military equipment which had been damaged before they reported for service. These included parts for the “Grad” system, which they had to buy from Chechens, who (according to the contract soldiers) had access to spare parts for any military hardware. The crowning offense outlined in the article, though, is that the contract soldiers’ commanding officers told them which Chechens to go to in order to purchase the spare parts. 85 of these soldiers deserted as a result.

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