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Irritable Putin Offers Reporter Circumcision

Published: November 15, 2002 (Issue # 820)

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin's diatribe against radical Islam at a press conference in Brussels ended in embarassment when he rounded out his reply to a French reporter with a crude joke, inviting anyone wishing to be circumcised to come to Moscow, where the operation would be done in such a way as to make sure that "nothing grows back."

The scandalous comment, made late Monday, was immediately picked up by non-state Russian media but elicited a delayed reaction in the West due to translation problems.

In response to a Le Monde reporter, who questioned Russia's use of anti-personnel land mines and fragmentation bombs in Chechnya, Putin began, rather calmly, by saying that Chechnya was a "complex conglomeration of problems." He reiterated that the separatist movement in the republic was overtaken by radical Muslims and terrorists who filled the vacuum of power.

"No one can accuse Russia of suppressing freedom," Putin said. "Russia de facto gave full independence to the Chechen republic [in 1996]. In 1999, we had to pay for it. Wide-scale aggression against Russia, in the republic of Dagestan, took place under the slogan of creating a caliphate [Muslim theocracy] ... by tearing apart territories of the Russian Federation. What does that have to do with Chechnya's independence?"

People who inspire and finance Chechen fighters are "religious extremists and international terrorists," he continued. But Russia is only the first line of defense, he said, because "the radicals" have wide ambitions and "speak about the creation of a global caliphate."

As he became increasingly impassioned, he began to go through the categories of all those who are under threat from radical Muslims.

"They speak about the necessity to kill Americans and their allies. I think you come from a country that happens to be an ally of the United States - you are in danger," Putin said in addressing the French reporter.

"They are talking about the need to kill all kafirs [infidels], all non-Muslims, or Crusaders, as they say. If you are a Christian, you are in danger!"

"But if you decide to reject your faith and become an atheist, you are also subject to liquidation according to their way of thinking. ... You are in danger!"

"If you decide to become a Muslim, even that won't save you. Because they consider traditional Islam also to be hostile to the goals they advocate. Even in that case you are in danger!"

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Tuesday, Oct. 21

The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.

Take the opportunity to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.

Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”

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