MOSCOW The Kremlin-backed chief of Russia's turbulent Chechnya region said his forces were fighting U.S. and British intelligence services who want to split the country apart, according to an interview published Thursday.
Former rebel-turned-Moscow-ally Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments to Zavtra newspaper reprinted on his official website that he had seen the U.S. driving license of a CIA operative who was killed in a security operation he led.
Chechen authorities have previously said insurgents following the radical Wahabist form of Islam receive support from international Islamist groups sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but have not accused the West of instigating violence.
"We're fighting in the mountains with the American and English intelligence agencies. They are fighting not against Kadyrov, not against traditional Islam, they are fighting against the sovereign Russian state," he said.
The West sought to attack both Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the country as a whole by targeting the country's weakest regions, Kadyrov said in the comments republished prominently on www.chechnya.gov.ru.
Kadyrov was appointed by Moscow as a bulwark against separatist rebels in the mainly Muslim province, but rights activists say he flouts federal laws and is himself responsible for much of the violence that has grown in recent months.
"The West is interested to cut off the Caucasus from Russia. The Caucasus - a strategic frontier of Russia. If they take away the Caucasus from Russia, it's like taking away half of Russia."
Many Chechens have emigrated to Europe, Turkey, and Georgia and some have been recruited as insurgents, said Kadyrov.
"Now they strike a blow against Putin and Russia. Chechnya, Dagestan are weak, vulnerable parts of the Russian state," Kadyrov said, referring to the neighboring region, which has also been rocked by violence.
Asked if he was saying there were signs of CIA and MI6 participation in the violence, he said "Of course," he had seen evidence of their direct involvement in an operation he led.
"There was a terrorist Chitigov, he worked for the CIA. He had U.S. citizenship...When we killed him, I was in charge of the operation and we found a U.S. driving license and all the other documents were also American," he said.