Chechnya's Extremity

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the war in Chechnya is over. Chechens voted in a March election, he notes, approving an autonomy plan that keeps the tiny breakaway republic in the Russian Federation. He has scheduled local elections for October and has transferred military operations from the security service to the police.

But the suicide bombings at a Moscow rock festival over the weekend tell a different story. Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing 13 other people. The attacks are the latest in a series of such bombings, many involving women, that have killed dozens of innocent people.

Meanwhile, Russian soldiers perish in daily incidents all over Chechnya. Some 100 to 150 Chechens disappear each month. Many are seized by Russian security forces and never heard from again.

The women's involvement in the attacks reflects the deep desperation many Chechens feel. For most of the past two centuries, they have been engaged in an on-again, off-again rebellion against Russia. But the past 100 years have seen hundreds of thousands of Chechens killed.

The female suicide bombers act outside Chechen traditions, according to which women do not fight, and the mystical Sufi Islam to which most Chechens historically adhere.

Moscow insists that the Chechen rebels are in league with Al Qaeda. There is very probably a connection between Osama bin Laden and some rebels. But most outside observers believe that Chechen nationalism, rather than religious ideology, is the rebels' prime motivator.

The European Parliament, which last week condemned Russian "war crimes" in Chechnya, has it right: There can be no military solution to the conflict. Moscow should quickly agree to an international conference in which it would sit down with Chechen representatives and European organizations and discuss peaceful solutions. The Russian and the Chechen people are both tired of the killing.

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