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Rebel Chechen leader captures TV

 - .Ru

: Artyom Vernidoub   - .Ru

The president of the self-styled independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria called on the Chechen people to disrupt the constitutional referendum by refusing to vote, as he talked live on local television Monday. As Gazeta.Ru has learnt from the commandants office of the Vedeno district of the war-torn province, the rebel broadcast continued for 24 hours on the frequency used by Russias Channel One (formerly ORT).

The rebel broadcast would have gone unnoticed, if it had not been for a Reuters correspondent in Chechnya. Russias Kommersant Daily newspaper reported the rebel takeover of the channels frequency on Tuesday, citing the British news agency. Judging by those reports, only viewers living in the mountainous areas of Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt districts were able to watch the rebels programmes. The commandants office confirmed that the Chechen rebels had occupied the broadcasting frequency, and held the air for about 24 hours.

Reports said that Aslan Maskhadov appeared on TV and addressed his fellow-countrymen with a 20-minute address, in which he called on them not to take part in the constitutional referendum and vowed that this year his units would win back their lost positions. ''With the coming of the spring, when good conditions for waging the guerilla war emerge, we will deliver a crushing blow to the federal troops,'' Maskhadov said.

So that the federal command could hear his threats, Maskhadov addressed his views first in Chechen and then repeated his statement in Russian. Maskhadovs associates, whom Kommersant somehow managed to get in touch with, refrained from elaborating on how their leader had managed to get on air. ''As to how one can do it technically, ask a technician. Our president went on air before, and will do it in the future.'' Indeed, this is not the first case, when Maskhadov has broadcast on the Chechen television.

''He has his own dish and his own, how do they call it, small substation. With it one can go on air anywhere, even in the woods. But they always change the base, and therefore it is hard to intercept them. Last month Maskhadov went on air twice. This is not news to the law enforcers,'' the spokesman of the Chechnya representative office in Moscow Edi Isayev told Gazeta.Ru.

There are two unusual things about the latest incident. Firstly, the statement proved topical. Usually in their video statements the rebels resort to general propaganda, whereas in the latest case Maskhadov talked of the referendum, currently a widely discussed issue in Chechnya and beyond.

Secondly, the rebels managed to supplant the leading state-controlled television network. Ever since the beginning of the first military campaign the separatists have been using far weaker frequencies. Many villages in Chechnya are equipped with cable networks and all the rebels had to do was to enter an unguarded house and to play a tape, recorded beforehand. This happens usually by night, when common residents and the military prefer to stay indoors.

Footages showing attacks on federal convoys and calls for the creation of an Islamic state in Chechnya are usually presented under the logo 'Ichkeria TV', cutting into entertainment programmes. Before the military sounds the alarm, the rebels flee to safety. None of them has ever been caught. The previous such incident occurred in September, in the village of Samashki. The rebels used the RenTV frequency to play a tape with a Maskhadov statement in which he reportedly commented on the August crash of a Mi-26 helicopter. Several days later local officials said that none of the residents had seen the broadcast.

That Maskhadov has called on the Chechens not to take part in the referendum was first reported two weeks ago by the headquarters of the combined federal grouping. Apparently, the military had come across the very tape that was played in Vedeno on Monday. ''That statement by Maskhadov implies that he has announced war on his own people in view of preparations for the constitutional referendum in the Chechen Republic,'' the deputy commander of the federal troops, Colonel-Lieutenant Alexander Starovsky explained then.

Two days ago Maskhadov made another TV appearance, this time on the state-run Rossia Channel. Russias Federal Security Service presented footage it found in Chechnya, containing evidence of the Chechen leaders participation in last years theatre siege in Moscow. The tape shows Aslan Maskhadov allegedly discussing the details of the planned attack with the warlord Movsar Barayev, who led the hostage-takers, and the Arab mercenary Abu-Umar. The channel showed excerpts of the video without sound.

By showing the tape on the nationwide channel the FSB aimed to once again prove Maskhadovs involvement in the attack. But the Chechen rebels refuted the charge. The Chechen rebel website Kavkaz Centre said Maskhadov had often met with Barayev, but the Chechen leader knew nothing of the planned theatre attack. During the theatre siege Movsar Barayev openly said he acted on orders from Shamil Basayev, not from Maskhadov.

04 17:37


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