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Mixed Russian Reactions to US Bombing Campaign - 2001-10-09

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated strong support for the United States after the terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C. and New York almost a month ago. While many Russians feel sympathy, they have reservations about the U.S. response.

On Sunday night, when President Bush announced that U.S. and British forces had attacked the Taleban and what they identified as terrorist bases in Afghanistan, many Russians watched and listened as events unfolded.

Many Russians support the U.S. attacks, saying the United States needed to respond to the terrorist attacks.

To some Russians, the terrorist attacks in the United States are no different than those that occurred in Russia over two years ago, when hundreds of people were killed when apartment buildings were bombed. The Russian government and many citizens blamed the bombings on rebels in the breakaway region of Chechnya, in southern Russia.

Russian troops have been fighting rebels in Chechnya for two years and President Putin has said repeatedly that there is no difference between the rebels in Chechnya and the international terrorism the United States is now fighting. Muscovite Yevgeny Panov agrees. He said the terrorist problem the U.S. is dealing with in Afghanistan is exactly the same as the terrorist problem Russia has been dealing with in Chechnya. He added it was right to bomb terrorist sites in Afghanistan.

But some disagreed with U.S. criticism of Russian conduct in Chechnya. For Alexei Nikitushkin, the terrorist attacks in the U.S. were a worldwide tragedy. Mr. Nikitushkin said the U.S. is right to fight terrorism but said he can't understand why they have been against the war in Chechnya. They are against the war in Chechnya, he said, but it's the exact same thing as the war against terrorists in Afghanistan.

Some people worried Washington was too quick to act. Irina Veshnevskaya noted innocent people would be hurt in the bombing campaign. She said bombing Afghanistan wasn't a wise move because there was no way to tell whether the people attacked were terrorists or civilians.

Many in Russia are also concerned that since Russia is helping Washington, Russia could also become a target for terrorist attacks in the future.