Former Chechen Foreign Minister Lives in Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Former Chechen Foreign Minister Lives in Vermont

Andover, Vermont - September 10, 2004

The rolling landscape of Vermont's Green Mountains remind Ilyas Akhmadov of the home he left behind.

He was the foreign minister of the Chechen republic of Ikcheria, before fleeing in exile two years ago.

"The landscapes are alike, but everything else is different. Here we see small, amateur pilots in planes, there we see bombers," says Akhmadov.

Akhmadov is staying with friends in Andover, a month after being granted asylum in the United States. That action spurred outrage in Russia, where he is considered a terrorist for actions of Chechen separatists.

"It took two years to prove I had nothing to do with any of that, and now they are trying to link me even to the events in Beslan."

The events in Beslan, a massacre at a school in southern Russia that left more than 300 dead and some 700 injured.

The attackers were reportedly demanding independence for Chechnya.

"This is a monstrous and unprecedented action that is worthy of nothing but condemnation. It's impossible to understand what motives people who carried out this act could have had."

Akhmadov says the actions in Beslan were spurred by lack of civil law and a conflict between Russia and Chechnya that goes back 400 years, when the Russian empire wanted to expand its territorial border by eliminating ethnic groups to the south.

Akhmadov says that over the past decade, the war has claimed a quarter-million Chechen lives.

"From first days of conflict, we have appealed to rest of world. We have asked people to get involved, to stop senseless slaughter. But Russia continues to insist that everything that occurs in chechnya is an internal matter."

Akhmadov says he does not want to exploit the massacre in Beslan -- but he hopes it will help show the world community it cannot close its eyes to terror, no matter how far from home it occurs.

Ilyas Akhmadov will be settling in Washington, D.C.

He's been granted a fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he'll study the Chechen movement toward independence.

Kate Duffy - Channel 3 News

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