February 27, 2006
VILNIUS–Europe must not by duped by Russian claims that Moscow is fighting a war against terror in Chechnya and turn a blind eye to abuses committed in the rebel province, lawmakers participating in a conference here said Monday. “Russia is busy deceiving the world by saying that the war in Chechnya is a war against terrorism. The truth is that Russia is carrying out a determined policy to annihilate the Chechen people,” Lithuanian lawmaker Rytas Kupcinskas, one of the organisers of the conference, told a press conference. The seminar on Chechnya was held to mark the 62nd anniversary of what Chechens call Deportation Day. On February 23, 1944, almost half a million Chechens and Ingush were forcibly moved to central Asia, on orders from then Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Lawmakers from Estonia, Georgia and Lithuania who took part in the conference along with Chechen officials and a US political scientist, sent a message denouncing “the treachery and cruelty of Russia” to the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They also urged the European organisations to organise a much broader conference on Chechnya, which would bring together European politicians and academics to discuss the plight of the Chechen people, their rights and their future. “We Lithuanians feel close to the Chechen people,” Kupcinskas told AFP. “We had to fight against Soviet occupation. I hope that initiatives such as this conference will have an effect.” Lithuania and the other two Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia were annexed by Stalin’s Soviet Union at the end of World War II, and only regained independence in 1991, when the Soviet Union crumbled. Russian troops stormed oil-rich Chechnya in the north Caucasus at the end of 1999 after suffering defeat in a first war against separatist rebels between 1994 and 1996. Guerrilla fighting still claims almost daily casualties on both sides.