By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s leading political parties mostly approved on Tuesday the Russian authorities’ handling of the hostage crisis in Moscow, but cautioned that there can be no military solution to its root cause: the bloody conflict in Chechnya.
“The Chechens were ready to blow up the building,” said Gagik Tadevosian, a senior parliamentarian affiliated the Armenian Communist Party, commenting on the Kremlin’s decision to storm the theater seized last week by several dozen Chechen militants.
“In a sense, it was a justified move because there seemed to be no other way out,” agreed Armen Rustamian, the parliamentary leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential pro-Russian party represented in government.
But Rustamian said he thinks that attempts to end the Chechen conflict by military means will lead nowhere, effectively questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hard-line strategy of dealing with Chechen rebels. “There has to be a peaceful solution to the conflict,” he told RFE/RL, adding that the peace process should start from “free elections” in the breakaway Caucasus republic.
Vazgen Manukian, leader of the opposition National Democratic Union (AZhM), praised Moscow for not caving in to “terrorist blackmail,” but also stressed the need for a peaceful settlement. “It has long been proven that war is not the right way of solving problems with Chechnya,” Manukian said. “So the sooner they start negotiations and make peace, the better.”
An Armenian citizen living in Moscow was among 116 hostages killed by the effects of a sedative gas pumped into the theater before its storming by Russian special forces early on Saturday. Several other Armenians survived the siege. Armenia’s close ties with Russia were apparently the main reason why the Chechen gunmen refused to release them along with other Caucasian theatergoers, including Georgians and Azerbaijanis.
Some Armenian parties questioned the wisdom of the high-risk rescue operation. Shavarsh Kocharian of the opposition National Democratic Party deplored “the 70-year Soviet mentality that human life is of secondary importance.” “This tragedy shows that it lives on,” he said.