10 March 2000
The Secretary General of The Muslim Council of Britain, Mr Iqbal Sacranie, sent a letter this morning to the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, about his surprise weekend visit to acting Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin, whom John Sweeney calls ‘the new hero of Russian democracy courted by Western leaders who is also responsible for one of the most savage single atrocities since the Second World War’. (The Observer, 5 March 2000).
The letter noted that the international community’s response including that of Britain – to Russia’s genocidal campaign and war crimes in Chechnya has virtually been that of a loud silence. Indeed, what is alarming is evidence of a disturbing collaboration between the British government and the Russian leadership. An example of this was the remark of Robin Cook that he found Putins style ‘most refreshing and open and his priorities for Russia are ones that we share”.
The letter shows that the invasion of the Chechen Republic was prepared months in advance of the so-called ‘terrorist’ attacks in Moscow which was really the work of Russian agents as part of a diversionary campaign to secure the presidency for Vladimir Putin. The allegations that this was the work of Chechen or Islamic terrorists was ‘a big lie’ and by acquiescing in this big lie the British government has encouraged Russia to commit the grossest of war crimes in recent history.
What is also alarming are the reports that the British government was working with the Russian embassy in London and with the FSB (successor to the KGB) to watch British Muslims and inform Moscow about alleged pro-Chechen activists (The times, 24 Feb 2000). Such accusations against the British Muslim community are absolutely false. ‘British Muslims have been exercising their right to criticise and challenge Russian aggression, genocide and war crimes in Chechnya as well as try to provide some meagre relief. British Muslims are one of the most law-abiding communities in Britain and we are shocked that the Foreign Secretary was prepared to buy the insinuations of an interested – and warring – party’, the letter said.
The letter warns that the worst may yet be on its way and says that the least that can be done is to insist on an international monitoring and relief presence in Chechnya and Ingushetia where thousands of Chechens have taken refuge.
The letter urges the Prime Minister to pursue these matters at all levels since ‘the situation is already too grievous to be left solely to the mercy of a neo-Stalinist regime’.