Sunday, September 5, 2004 Posted: 1541 GMT (2341 HKT)
MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A top Chechen figure has said there was "no justification" for recent terrorist attacks perpetrated by Chechens but called them "unavoidable" because of Russia's policies.
Aslan Maskhadov, a rebel leader and former president of Chechnya, said in a written statement Sunday that Chechen leaders condemned the acts.
"There can be no justification for terror against absolutely innocent citizens," said Maskhadov, who has steadily become more sidelined in recent times by more radical leaders in the Chechen fight for a breakaway Muslim republic.
But he also said there were "political reasons for this tragedy" and called "upon the world to condemn the policy which has made such tragedies not only possible but unavoidable."
Maskhadov cited the massacre at a school in Beslan, Russia that left hundreds dead, the downing of two Russian airplanes that killed 89, and a suicide bombing outside a Moscow subway station that killed nine people in addition to the bomber.
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to place responsibility on external forces.
"In reality, the reason for the tragedy in Beslan and the never-ending cycle of violence in Chechnya and the environs is the policy of Putin himself, whose regime is guilty of the most massive crimes against humanity in Europe since World War II," Maskhadov said.
He accused Russia of carrying out a "genocide of the Chechen people."
Fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels has left untold thousands dead. Chechen rebels have carried out numerous attacks against civilians.
Maskhadov insisted the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Chechnya "are not doing this for religious fanaticism or abstract political ideas" but are motivated by personal revenge.
"But Russian brutality, international indifference, and the betrayal by the West do not at all mean that we have to fight against children and women.
"The Chechens who participated in similar actions are on the same level as Russian soldiers guilty of massive and systematic atrocities," he said.
"If we want to preserve ourselves as a people, to protect the moral rightness of our fight, we must decisively distance ourselves from those few whose consciousness has been darkened by revenge.
"That is why I am calling on all Chechens to grieve for the innocent victims and, in the name of the Chechen people, I express my condolences to their families."