Eliminate Them Like Rats

By February 10, 2006

“…Find them in all the caves where they are hiding, and eliminate them like rats,” President Putin told the Federal Security Service, or FSB, on Tuesday, urging them to intensify their hunt for Chechen rebels in the Caucasus. During this same speech to top leaders at the notorious Lubyanka, Putin stated that the Russian government supports Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as important to democracy, but he urged FSB staff to be vigilant in preventing foreign countries from using NGOs to influence Russia’s domestic affairs: http://www.kyivpost.com/bn/23826/Is Putin hinting that NGOs are linked to terrorist activities in Russia?

Or, is Putin talking out of both sides of his mouth?

On Thursday Putin infuriated Israel when he invited Hamas leaders to Moscow for a meeting, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/international/10hamas.htmll, saying that Russia did not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, even though the militant Islamist group recently elected to power in the Palestinian Authority has called for Israel’s destruction. Russian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov offered a pragmatic commentary on the situation, hinting that the West needs to accept the Palestinian leadership: “Hamas is in power, this is a fact, and secondly, it came to power as a result of free democratic elections.”

Just a few years ago, Russia claimed to be a member of the Middle East “peace quartet” along with the European Union and the United Nations. It is hard to interpret Mr. Putin’s policy twists and turns, which seem to become more convoluted the longer he is in power.

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