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MOSCOW THEATRE HOSTAGE CRISIS: Bitter war of independence.

Byline: MARK ELLIS, Foreign Editor

Q: What do the terrorists want to achieve?

A: The group want independence for their home republic of Chechnya, a small country with a mainly Muslim population of about one million.

Q: Where is Chechnya?

A: On the southern tip of the Russian Caucasus, between the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east.

Q: How did the fighting start?

A: Chechnya declared independence in 1991 after the breakaway of Soviet republics that had never been part of Russia, but were members of the larger Soviet Union. Chechnya was and is part of Russia and in 1994 President Yeltsin sent in troops to restore his authority.

Q: What is happening in Chechnya now?

A: Rebels defeated Russian forces in 1996, but troops returned in an "anti-terrorist" operation three years later, following a series of apartment block bombings. Puppet pro-Russia rule was set up.

Q: Have Chechens launched terrorist attacks before now?

A: Some claimed the flats bombings were the work of Russian hawks, who wanted a reason to restart a war and crush Chechnya once and for all. But since then Chechens seem to have been involved in the hijacking of a ship and several passenger planes, and the bombing of the Moscow underground.

Q: Is this the first time they have held hostages in the heart of the country?

A: This is the first such attack in Moscow, but 100 captives were killed in Budennovsk in southern Russia in 1995.

Q: Why has the West not intervened in the conflict?

A: It is thought President Putin only agreed to support the war on terror if the US agreed not to interfere in Chechnya.

Q: Is this incident linked to a wider campaign of violence?

A: Mr Putin has suggested links with bin Laden. Evidence is sketchy, but it is thought many fighters were trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Q: Is there prospect of peace?

A: Russia has occasionally made efforts at a settlement, but the US is no longer putting pressure on for such a result.

Mr Putin, elected as a hardman who would solve the problem by force, seems unlikely to want to open a dialogue after this incident.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Oct 26, 2002
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