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Journalist Mark Franchetti tells hisstory
Written by   
, 26 2002
MARK FRANCHETTI, 'SUNDAY TIMES' JOURNALIST WHO SPOKE WITH THE TERRORISTS: THE OPERATION WAS ORDERED BY MASKHADOV AND BASAYEV
In ‘Izvestiya’
It is not the first time that British journalist Mark Franchetti, who twice on Thursday communicated with the terrorist-seized theatrical center, has dealt with terrorists while in Afghanistan he met with Taliban commanders. Hetold Andrei Lebedev of ‘Izvestiya’ what sort of people are holding hostages at Dubrovka.
- What impression did the terrorists leave you with?
“I think they're moderately religious Muslims with all that constant ‘Allahu akbar’ but Iwouldn’t call them your ‘typical Arab terrorists’. They’re more Soviet, or something.
These are professionals: that’s evident in how careful they were letting me in. Theymade me remove my outer clothing and searched me before Iwent in to see their leader. About him: he’s purposeful, calm, without any sign of tension or stress. Onthe contrary, he’s obviously pleased with the way events are unfolding. According to him, the main task of his team was to enter the theatrical center and take the hostages, and that’s what he’s managed to do. Asto what happens next: well, we’ll just have to see.”
- So they have not made any specific demands?
“They don’t have any plan such has ‘remove the troops from Urus-Martan in 5days’. They’re demanding ‘stop the war in Chechnya immediately’, but after that they’ve been on the cell phone with their counterparts in Chechnya. Theybelieve that the next step is President Putin’s, while working out the details of the withdrawal is to be done by the Russian and Chechen governments, and for the latter they have Maskhadov in mind.
- These people are acting on behalf of Maskhadov, that’s what they’re claiming?
“They call the events a ‘joint operation’ conducted under orders from Maskhadov and Basayev orders. Themilitants have stressed this. Onthe other hand, it can’t be ruled out that they’re trying to discredit Maskhadov, but for now it’s impossible to say how things really are.”
- Is it easy to talk with them?
“Barayev almost never shows emotion. He’s very calm, and Iwould even say timid. Hespeaks about everything in almost the same monotone. Hehas a deputy with him with whom Italked twice. Thatone gives the impression of being somewhat more flexible. During one conversation some disagreement arose between them Barayev offered to let me photograph the auditorium, but his deputy objected, and in the end they agreed that taking pictures or even letting me into the auditorium would be impossible. Instead, they took me to one of the areas inside the theater and showed me three women covered with packets of explosives.”
- What language did you speak?
“Russian. Inmy opinion, they speak good Russian. Idon’t know whether they made any grammatical errors Russian isn’t my native language. Theydidn’t try to speak any English. It’s hard to say for sure, but, in my opinion, they aren’t very educated. Theywere 2527years old, so the period after their schooling coincided with the war years.”
- Martyrs are always young
“It didn’t look like any of them were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Theyhave a high level of discipline. There’s a feeling that they are fully committed, and it’s understandable they came here willing to die. Ifthere’s an assault, they’ll blow up the building no doubt about it. Onthe other hand, I’d say that if someone was going to blow up a building and himself with it, then he wouldn’t need to wear a mask. Soit seems that they’re keep their options open: if the situation is defused they can leave the country.
 
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