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Basayevs Nightline Interview Irks Russia

Published: August 2, 2005 (Issue # 1092)


MOSCOW The Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. Embassys top official and politicians expressed outrage after a U.S. television network broadcast an interview with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who has a $10 million bounty on his head and has claimed responsibility for the Beslan school hostage-taking and other terrorist attacks.

Basayev acknowledged in the interview that he was a terrorist and repeated his earlier statements that he might order more Beslan-style attacks. But he softened his rhetoric by noticeably avoiding loaded words such as jihad and infidels.

The taped interview was broadcast on ABC televisions Nightline late Thursday night and was conducted by Andrei Babitsky, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist who has complained about Russian harassment over previous reports about Chechnya.

Moscow is very sensitive to domestic and foreign media giving a voice to Chechen rebels, whom it equates with international terrorists, and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Sunday that he was barring military personnel from contact with ABC.

The Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the U.S. Embassys deputy chief of mission, Daniel Russell, to convey our views over the broadcast of an interview with a terrorist, ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov said.

The network has shown outrageous neglect of the standards of responsible journalism and general human values, he said in a statement on the ministrys web site.

The embassy confirmed that Russell had been summoned but declined further comment. Russell is the top U.S. official in Russia after Ambassador Alexander Vershbow left in mid-July. The next ambassador has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, stood by its decision to air the interview on Sunday. ABC News will continue to report fully on news from Russia and that important region, it said in an e-mailed statement.

ABC also said it had offered the Russian government an opportunity to participate in Nightline or a future broadcast and the offer was declined.

Host Ted Koppel said on Nightline that viewers had the right to hear the viewpoint of any newsmaker. Then we can reject or accept it, condemn it or embrace it, he said, according to a transcript of the program. No one should have the authority to make that decision for us. Not our own government, and certainly not somebody elses.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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