ANKARA (Reuters)–Russia’s ties with Turkey–strained by attitudes to each other’s rebels–soured further on Wednesday when Moscow’s ambassador accused the Turkish media of hypocrisy in its reporting of the Moscow siege and Chechnya.
In a five-page statement–ambassador Alexander Lebedev said he wondered if opposing Russia was a genetic trait for Turks.
He said Turkish coverage of last week’s theater siege by Chechen rebels concentrated on attacking Russian authorities for their response to the hostage-taking.
He said reporting of Russia’s conflict with Chechen rebels was very different to coverage of its own struggle with Kurdish rebels.
Lebedev said Turkish newspapers and television would report alleged Russian atrocities in the rebel province of Chechnya but ignore "the heads severed by Chechen and Arab brigands."
"Is this coincidence? Or is opposition to Russia a genetic syndrome?" he wrote.
Russia’says at least 117 hostages died when Russian special forces stormed the Moscow theater on Saturday–all but two from the effects of a secret gas pumped in to subdue the rebels.
"Is a terrorist who carries out terrorist acts against Turkish citizens in Turkey a completely different thing to the Chechen…terrorist who carries out sabotage against Russia’s in Russia?" Lebedev wrote.
Turkey for years accused Russia of supporting the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) it has fought at a cost of more than 30,000 lives since 1984.
Russia in turn has accused Turkey of soft treatment of the Chechen rebels–who have carried out numerous attacks in Turkey.
Most of a group of pro-Chechen gunmen who seized a Black Sea ferry in Turkey in 1996 staged a mass outbreak from jail the following year.
The Turkish city of Istanbul is home to a substantial number of exiled Chechens–who are widely regarded in Turkey as fellow Muslims fighting against foreign oppression.
Many Turks trace their descent to the Caucasus.
Russia and Turkey have jostled for influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia since the times of the sultans and the czars.
TERRORISTS CONTACTED BASAYEV–TURKEY
Interfax reported that the terrorists who took several hundred people hostage in a Moscow theater made a number of calls to their accomplices in Chechnya and abroad–Olga Chernyak–an Interfax journalist–said.
Chernyak was one of the hostages.
She said that the terrorists repeatedly mentioned Chechen rebel leader–Shamil Basayev. She said that once they might have contacted Basayev himself–since–during the conversation–a terrorist called the individual he was speaking to by the name of Shamil.
Chernyak said that the hostage-takers also made a call to Turkey. The hostages learned about this from the cellphone a terrorist gave them after the call. They also learned then the conversation was in Arabic.
MOSCOW DEMANDS CHECHEN REBELS’ MISSION IN TBILISI CLOSED
MOSCOW(RIA-Novosti) Russia will press Georgia to close down the Tbilisi-based unofficial representative office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria–Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Gudev announced on Tuesday.
The diplomat stressed that Tbilisi’s representative office of Ichkeria–the separatists’ name for Chechnya–is "illegal and continues widespread activity–including the financing of terrorists–in spite of the fact that it was not registered with the country’s justice ministry". The diplomat emphasized that the closing down of the Ichkerian office was part of the struggle against international terrorism.
In the meantime–the Georgian Foreign Ministry asserts that it has "no constitutional right to close down the representative office if its actions do not run counter to the country’s Constitution".
Merab Antadze–Georgia’s deputy foreign minister–has announced that the country’s leaders will take measures to shut down the representative office if the Russian authorities are able to prove its criminal activity in Georgia.