For the attention of the President of the European Commission
Prof. Romano Prodi

Brussels, 11 February 2004

Dear President,

please allow me to offer you a book with a lot of pictures and very few words; most of these photos, as you will see, speak - unfortunately - for themselves. The publication in question is the latest book by the famous American photographer Stanley Greene, who has spent much of his time since 1994 in an ill-starred place called Chechnya. The commentary is by André Glucksmann, a long-time friend of the Chechen people.

The book has been published at the right time, it seems, when many commentators seem to have abandoned their “official” defence of the Russian President. Although in the light of Putin’s “reactions” in the last few days, it is becoming rather difficult to defend him. I do not know whether this means that there is now a new awareness of the real nature of the regime that is taking shape in Moscow, but from Colin Powell’s article in Izvestia and Dominique de Villepin’s statement about the “open war” it seems that the period in which our Russian friend was forgiven for everything is coming to an end.

It is, however, a much more concrete reason that has led me to write to you. As you may know, on 18 January I began a hunger strike “for Chechnya”. My aim was on one hand “to be a little closer to the Chechen people” a few weeks before the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of their deportation to Central Asia, ordered by Stalin on 23 February 1944, during which a third of the Chechen population at the time died of starvation, cold, and disease. And on the other hand to invite the highest institutions of the European Union and of the Member States, on the basis of commitments they have made:

  • to call on the Russian authorities to allow international organisations, NGOs, journalists and, of course, the institutions of the Union to work and circulate freely in Chechnya;

  • to guarantee security and dignified living conditions for the hundreds of thousands of Chechen who are living, often in inhuman conditions, in refugee camps both inside and outside the borders of the Russian Federation, without even enjoying the protection of refugee status;

  • To draw up, on the basis of article 14 of the EU Treaty, a “white list” of Chechen politicians charged with promoting the search for a peaceful and political solution to the Russo-Chechen tragedy, allowing them to reside and travel freely throughout the territory of the Union;

  • to acknowledge officially that the deportation of the entire Chechen people ordered by Stalin in 1944 constituted an act of genocide;

  • to acknowledge publicly the Peace Plan presented by the Maskhadov government, which proposes the establishment of an interim United Nations administration in Chechnya.

Dear President, you will agree that these are not absurd requests. Moreover, from the conclusions of the meeting between the Italian Foreign Minister Frattini and President Putin and the Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, Russia seems for the first time to be ready to agree to the presence of the Union in Chechnya. The Union should waste no time in grasping this important opportunity, which could ensure the return of outside observers to Chechnya, and in this sense the Commission could play a fundamental role of co-ordination, involving not only the structures of the Commission itself and of ECHO but also the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

As for the question of allowing the political representatives of the Chechen resistance the possibility to reside and circulate freely throughout the territory of the Union, I have been involved for some time in a profitable dialogue with Commissioner Vitorino, who first pointed out to me the possibility of an initiative in this field. For as well as allowing the possibility of drawing up “blacklists” of persons to whom the Union wishes to deny access to its territory, Article 14 of the EU Treaty also provides for the possibility of drawing up “white lists”, in other words lists of persons to whom the Union wishes to allow access to and residence in its territory.

Dear President, these are just some of the points on which I believe the Union could and, I believe, should intervene with the utmost urgency. I would obviously be extremely pleased and honoured to be able to meet you, in order to discuss what the Commission could do to alleviate the suffering of the Chechen people and to help to put an end to the Russo-Chechen tragedy.

I apologise for the length of this letter, and thank you in advance for your attention.

Yours respectfully,

Olivier Dupuis
Radical Member of the European Parliament