One of Russia’s top security chiefs announced today that Shamil Basayev, the leader of the Chechen resistance, was killed by Russian Special Forces last night.
Putin is calling Baseyev’s killing “just retaliation,” in part for attacks he helped organize that include the 2004 school siege in Beslan, which killed 331 —mostly children.
It’s good news, but until proof is shown we’ll remain dubious —Baseyev’s death has been reported before. (And as much as the ineptitude of Russian troops helped make the three-day standoff in Beslan a bloodbath, it was indeed Basayev and his ilk that took the school in the first place.)
More on being dubious: The good news comes at a good time…Just before this weekend’s G-8 conference in St. Petersburg.
We’ll see how the story unfolds, but early lines from Moscow are consistent with Putin’s larger strategy: Show the world Russia is tough, show them Russia is better at security than anyone. (And justify the terrifying brutality of the Chechen conflict.)
How will Bush react? We can’t wait to see if —locking eyes with GWB over caviar in St. Pete —Putin points out that Osama is still alive…
UPDATE: Time has an informed and nuanced take on the news, writing in part:
As long as Moscow sees Islamic extremists under every bush, local police will produce as many as Moscow likes.