President Putin had a minute for himself when he got the break between the meeting with the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and First Deputy of Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin.
Photo: Ilya Pitalev
The President Was Prepped for Operation
Vladimir Putin was interested of the Internal Ministry's version of the events in Kabardino-Balkaria. Yesterday Russian President Vladimir Putin met with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and with the help of subordinates understood the smallest details of the terrorists' attack on city of Nalchik. Kommersant special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov reports from the Russian President's residence.
Many journalists were planning to come in the morning to Novo-Ogarevo. Several German TV crews were very interested in the meeting of the Russian President with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. However, in the very moment when the bus doors were ready to close, all German journalists, who went out from there, suddenly walked directly to their cars. For some reason their famous compatriot Helmut Kohl stopped being of any interests for them (I am not even mentioning our famous compatriot.) When surprised Russian journalists asked their German colleagues why they were leaving, they answered that there are more important things to take care of.
In reality, we already knew about the terrorist attack on Nalchik. However, I thought, it was more important to see what the Russian President is going to do.
From the beginning, the Presidential schedule of meetings went down the drain. The only appointment which still stayed was the meeting with Kohl. And it would be hard to say that it was short and formal. The president and former chancellor spent together an hour and a half and then they talked to the journalists for not less than 20 minutes.
All this time, according to the information agencies reports, there was a small battle going on all over Nalchik. About one o'clock an official arrived to Novo-Ogarevo, who wasn't in the schedule -- Alexander Chekalin, First Deputy Interior Minister. He went to the Putin office as soon as Kohl walked out from there.
It looked like the German chancellor was not in a rush to leave the hospitable house. Outside, he slowly took off his coat, put on sweater and only then sat in the minivan with Russian tags and a small German flag under the windshield. (He prefers to sit next to the driver.) Helmut Kohl felt fine in this wonderful fall day outside of the big city. However, he has not been in the rush for a long time now.
During the crisis situations Vladimir Putin does not have a time to talk to journalists and I did not even hope to watch him working over the consequences of the terrorists attacks. Suddenly, in this moment the journalists were invited into the president's office. That was a good sign, so I even thought that everything as finished well in Nalchik and the crisis was over.
And that was true. Alexander Chekalin reported to the President of Russia the operative information. The insurgents, who attacked eight points in the city, were dispersed. According to Chekalin, the attackers lost not less than 50 people (an hour after this the number went down).
Chekalin told how two days ago, the police found the secret place, where large quantity of explosive components was hidden. Then some time after, the police blocked the owners of the explosives next to White River. Three of them resisted and were killed. The rest of them were still alive (despite the fact they also resisted.) Only the fall of the darkness saved them.
"We can say that for 100 percent the terrorists attacked Nalchik after we discovered the hidden explosives," Chekalin explained. "We have grounds to believe that among the terrorists of this group (ten people -A.K.) was one of the big terrorist leaders. The attack on Nalchik was a reaction from the rest of the bandits, who wanted with their strikes take our attention away from this group."
""The one that was blocked, isn't it?" Putin asked after some misunderstanding.
"Yes," Chekalin confirmed. “I report that all the members of this group were liquidated because of their attack."
"You meant resistance," Putin corrected him.
"Yes, resistance," Chekalin agreed. He was a bit nervous.
"Right away we started to guard the socially vulnerable objects of the city (he probably meant schools and kindergartens - A.K.) There were certain limitations imposed for the
movements within the city of law enforcements (he, probably, meant limitations imposed by the law enforcements-A.K.)
Alexander Chekalin stayed to report the details to the president, and I understood that the journalists were invited to hear the official version of the events.
However, it could be true only in one case: if among the ten killed terrorists in the White River area was a terrorist of Shamil Basaev's scale. In any other case, unprepared, and softly speaking risky, attempts of the dozens of terrorists to establish control over the city looked pretty doubtful.
Actually, one would not call these attempts unprepared either, despite the words of the First Deputy for Interior Minister. About 15 minutes after, Chekalin walked out from the president and was giving the details to the journalists that made us doubt his previous statements. The main argument of Chekalin that allegedly proves the terrorists’ unpreparedness, was the fact that they attacked in the late morning, when all the good terrorists attack only in the night time.
Chekalin told us that the terrorists attacked the law enforcement buildings with well trained groups of five people each. There were eight of these objects and there not less than fifteen groups of five -- two for each object. Chekalin did not explain to us when and how these groups entered the city and got to their objects.
However, he said again that among the killed terrorists at White River was "a big, if not the biggest, leader of the terrorists." Chekalin, for some reason left the question of one reporter if it was Shamil Basaev without the answer.
When the deputy minister finished to talk and approached his car, I decided to repeat this question about Basaev. I was surprised when he said quietly: "We'd have to check that yet."
In other words, he did not exclude such possibility. He, probably, was hoping himself, that this figure would look good in his report.
Although, the victims among the civil population would not look good in the report, but he, thanks God, said there were none. By that time we already started to receive different information from Nalchik. To our second questions about the victims, Chekalin gave answer that if such victims would really be than his subordinates and he would know that among the very first.
"Please, tell me," I asked him when he was almost ready to get in the car.”Do you really think that the attacks were unprepared?"
He just nodded his head: "Do you see this telephone?" And he waved in the air with the cell phone.
"This is the century of technology!" he proclaimed and looked with a lot of respect on his phone. "I can give a command on this phone to any point in the world -- and it would be immediately completed. I am telling you, this is the century of the technology!"
In the end he reassured all journalists that not one terrorist will leave Nalchik. He said that was the order of the president.
I, guess, he meant that they will be living in the city...
All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 14, 2005