Statement by Alexander Lebedev, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Regarding the Terrorist Act in Moscow, October 29, 2002
1. I love Turkey and treat with the greatest respect its past and present, and I believe in its future. With great attention I have been receiving statements by its senior officials and leaders of political parties.
2. In this connection I am extremely worried by the increased frequency of current comments in many Turkish media on the recent terrorist act in Moscow, whose tonality and straightforwardness not only disappoint me - they make me cautious.
What are they driving at?
At undermining the relations of friendship, trust and now already partnership between Russia and Turkey that have shaped for so long and with such difficulty?!
Who wants that, whom would it benefit?
3. I shall allow myself to recall certain events that have occurred in relations between our countries over the slightly more than four years that I have been the Ambassador of Russia to Turkey. Because Russia and Turkey are now both democratic countries I am confident that for my statement I, as in previous centuries, won't be punished. Neither here (by imprisonment in the Istanbul Castle of the Seven Towers, which quite often happened to Russian ambassadors in the past) nor, to be sure, in Moscow.
4. Thus, exactly four years ago, in the fall of 1998, very soon after my accreditation in Ankara, I began to be summoned almost daily now to the Turkish MFA, now to the Prime-Ministry, now to the President's Office, and often to the first persons.
The grounds: expel from Moscow Abdullah Ocalan, who according to the Turkish authorities' information was there - leader of the so called Kurdistan Workers Party, believed here to be in overall charge of Kurdish separatists, the chief terrorist and the main enemy of Turkey.
I deemed the Turkish authorities' position legitimate, made vigorous efforts to bring it to Moscow's notice and was glad when Russia's leadership took the only right decision - to expel Ocalan from Russia.
Addressing Turkish journalists, I ask them to recall how many interviews they "squeezed" out of me then.
5. This gives me today a moral right to speak of the inclination of many Turkish media to double standards.
Why? Yes, for the simple reason: a terrorist, if you read through many local newspapers, committing terrorist acts in Turkey against Turkish citizens is supposedly one thing. A Chechen or foreign Wahhabite terrorist performing acts of sabotage against Russians in Russia is something different!
6. I, staying here, highly appreciate any manifestation of solidarity with us in the struggle against Chechen separatism and, as proven, international terrorism having close links with it (Al-Qaeda, and similar outfits.). If I understand correctly, it was in the spirit of the Declaration on the Combating of Terrorism, signed in Moscow in 1999 by Vladimir Putin and Bulent Ecevit, that the Turkish President sent on October 28, 2002, a message to the Russian President with an expression of the condemnation of the terrorist act and condolences over the loss of life.
7. Meanwhile, however, many "democratic" Turkish journalists, as if on orders, immediately launched a campaign against President Putin, the Russian authorities and special services over the casualties of the special operation.
I am not a specialist and am not in a position to judge whether it is possible to consider - in accordance with certain statistics (I just wonder, whose) - the ratio of the number of those who lost their lives - in the face of the barbarian fanatics - to those who were saved reasonable. Precedents of this kind are personally unknown to me. In a private capacity I shall allow myself to say that the number of casualties (I do not count the militants in) is shocking, but it is for experts to sort out the causes of that. Especially for the future - because, alas, this isn't the end... (And sorting out the composition and doses of gas is evidently up to the experts and special services of different countries after all.)
8. The main question in such situations, to my mind, consists in decisions taken at the political level. For in such extremal situations they have to be taken in a very short space of time, when utterly dramatic blunders cannot be ruled out, but in the name of achieving the ultimate aim. Questions as to why it happened thus, not better, I think, are pertinent, but what's most important is to give a final political assessment.
How did key Western leaders react? The White House is convinced that "the responsibility for the deaths of people in the course of the hostage-taking crisis in Moscow rests on the terrorists." The Canadian Prime Minister noted that "the hostage-taking in Moscow ranks with the recent terrorist acts in Indonesia, in the Philippines and of September 11 last year in the US." The UN Secretary General declared that "the hostage-taking was a heinous act of terrorism, which cannot be justified by any circumstances." The head of the British government called the operation to free the hostages an "impressive success." And so on.
Their reaction is much more important to me than the sententious utterances of certain journalists from Milliyet, Hurriyet, Zaman, a number of Turkish television channels, and so on.
9. I ask all of you, journalists, to sort out your own feelings and show yourselves to be genuine representatives of a free and democratic press.
The main question: Are double standards acceptable to honest journalists or not?
10. For example, we all know that more than 30,000 Turks died in the struggle against the KWP. More than sad. And how many civilians?!
Why is it that with such pleasure Turkish television has for several years now been showing worn-out and dubious sequences of atrocities of Russian servicemen in Chechnya and has not been showing (although such films are available here) the heads cut off by Chechen and Arab bandits of Russians, Britons and persons of other nationalities?! By the way, one of those butchers was the uncle of the leader of the terrorists who committed the act of hostage-taking in Moscow, Arbi Barayev.
An anti-Russian genetic syndrome?!
Or, perhaps, the money with which terrorists in Chechnya are being generously provided from the outside (and also through Turkey - of course, not via official channels).
Why do the local media so relish the reports of a "genocide" of 200,000 Chechens by the "Russians" - a figure physically most unlikely for even the two wars?! (By the way, the term "genocide" in this region should be handled with great care...)
Why they don't say that political consultations with Aslan Maskhadov were conducted and that Chechnya got the kind of autonomy which not one people in the region could even dream of. However this led only to an attack by Wahhabite terrorists on neighboring Dagestan; actions were being prepared against other neighboring autonomies. All of this took place, it now appears, under the guidance of the now-recognized leaders of the terrorists, Maskhadov and Basayev.
Why is a silence being maintained here on this?!
I have but one request: please sort all this out yourselves.
Alas, I very much doubt that you will publish what I told you bluntly and, excuse me, emotionally. If I am mistaken, I will be very happy. That's about all I would like to address the media and public of Turkey with.
11. Regardless of how long I will yet stay here, I will always remain a friend of Turkey with a belief in that the local mass media here will, at last, understand my position too and give an objective assessment to what is happening. The only way towards this, I repeat, is to relinquish double standards.
12. In other words, from my viewpoint, pan-Slavic brotherhood and pan-Turkic and Pan-Anglo-Saxon and pan-Francophone and pan-Hispanic, and so forth are possible and justified at the cultural-ethnical and emotional level, but not at the political.
13. Alas, terrorists do not recognize such criteria. They act within the framework of religious and ethnic sects - Wahhabites, and Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Basque, Corsican extremists all act according to their own bandit laws.
14. Depending on state capabilities and a dominant ideology, after all, whole countries can also be terrorist.
15. But still, normal values and normal people must rule on the Earth, not the bearers of jihad and similar ideological assumptions.
And they should be helped by reasonable journalists in Turkey. And not only...