LONDON (Svetlana Babaeva, RIA Novosti) - Since the July 7 suicide bombings in London, people in Britain have been trying to make sense of the terrorist attacks, analyzing various aspects of them, as well as the history of terrorism. Unfortunately, Moscow was not mentioned.
The British police and security services worked very hard, and six days after the explosions named the suspects, including their names, addresses and life stories, and the opinions of their parents and neighbors. The progress of the investigation was reported daily, encouraging great respect for their professional effectiveness.
However, I have a few questions for politicians and my fellow journalists.
Have they spent the past four years on some other planet? Do they not remember the search for British citizens among the victims of the 9/11 tragedy in the U.S.? Have they no regard for the tragedies of Moscow and Madrid, Afghanistan and Iraq?
It turned out that there are web sites with bomb-making instructions and explanations of how these bombs can be used "to the glory of the Allah." It turned out that there are many al-Qaida cells, and it came as a complete surprise that suicide bombers could be used in Europe, too. Britain was shocked by this, and presented the explosions in London as the first use of suicide bombers in Europe. Does this mean that Russia, which has suffered from suicide bombings too, is not a European nation?
Downing Street makes two statements a day about security measures, the background of the terrorist attacks, and progress made in the investigation. But it does not mention Moscow. Only once did Tony Blair mention Russia, alongside Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Tanzania. The British Ambassador to Moscow has thanked Russian citizens who expressed condolences to Londoners. But this happened in Moscow, while London does not remember that over 40 people died in a Moscow metro explosion during the rush hour in February 2004.
In the first days after the London explosions, the public almost unanimously refused to discuss the political aspects of the terrorist attacks, allegedly "as a mark of respect for the bomb victims." Some time later, the terrorist attacks were compared to the explosions in the U.S. and Spain and on Bali in Indonesia. But the innocent victims of the Moscow metro bombings were not mentioned, as if Russia has been crossed out of the list of countries where people die in terrorist attacks. Russia was not mentioned, because this would have made London not the first European capital hit by suicide bombers.
I address this question to politicians, in particular the human aspect of politics, however small it is in this pragmatic profession.
It is possible to speak in negative terms about Zakayev, Berezovsky and other "political defectors" who have found refuge in London. It is possible to discuss the proof (or lack of it) provided by Moscow when it requested the extradition of these people. It is possible to talk about the political reasons for the authorities' refusal to grant the request, and compare the level of political independence of the Russian and British judicial systems. In view of the current trends in British public opinion, it is possible to read with a degree of understanding commentaries about events and tragedies in the Caucasus. But the explosions in the Moscow metro are quite another matter.
They were horribly like the blasts in the London Underground, but happened long before them, as a kind of an alarm signal. The people who died in the Moscow metro were not very different from the victims of the explosions at Russell Square and King's Cross. The British Embassy in Moscow inquired with great alarm about British subjects among the victims in Moscow, just as their Russian counterparts in London did on July 7.
I cannot explain why Moscow's tragedies have been forgotten. Many European capitals have a cautious attitude to Russia, but human tragedy, especially such as happened in Moscow and London, should not have political aspects. Politics as a pragmatic occupation can suggest many reasons for solidarity, though they may seem inhuman in this context: The Russian money working for the British economy, the number of Russian citizens visiting the country officially and privately every year, and the profits which the British economy plans to get from energy projects in Russia, despite criticism of Russia's democratic preferences.
But the main task on the agenda now, which is also important to Russia (though from a different angle), is to maintain tolerance without undermining security. How to guarantee the basic human rights to life, freedom of religion, the inviolability of private life, and freedom of movement without infringing on them?
Russia is facing the same task. Unfortunately, every country seems to be tackling this task independently, as political interests are again overshadowing the common threat. The "common struggle against the plague of the 21st century" is on the agenda of nearly every international meeting. But we still lack simple compassion for each other, without which we will have only a political semblance of honest partnership.
Svetlana Babaeva is head of RIA Novosti's London bureau. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.