Saddam Hussein could be hiding in Kalmykia

Investigative reporters are the poster-children of the journalistic world. Political reporters get to rub shoulders with the high ‘n’ mighty, business journalists rub shoulders with the titans of the corporate world, those on the society beat get to attend the fanciest parties, but at the end of the day it is everyone’s dream to make his or her name as an investigator.

It is perhaps no surprise, that people from other professions occasionally feel that they too might try their hand at being investigators. There is a fine line, however, between being a good investigative reporter and a mere speculator. Is it possible that Raymond Keene, a chess player of some note, has crossed the fine boundary?

Keene has written a highly speculative piece for the British journal The Spectator in which he claims that Saddam Hussein may be hiding in a remote corner of Russia.

In the last fortnight of the war there was a curious incident when American planes strafed a convoy of Russian diplomats as they fled in their cars toward the Syrian border. The Americans later offered a half-hearted apology – some Russians were injured.

Needless to say, there was no proof whether Saddam was was there in the convoy. Nor, I am afraid, is Keene’s attempt at investigative journalist much better than idle speculation. His theory is that Saddam has taken refuge with Kirsan Ilumzhinov, president of the autonomous republic of Kalmykia in Russia.

Why does Keene believe Saddam to be in Kalmykia? Well, he has seen pictures of the two embracing each other, photographs apparently displayed quite prominently in Ilumzhinov’s base in Moscow.

This is not exactly proof – which is just as well for a certain I. K. Gujral, whose most famous act as India’s Foreign Minister in 1990 was to be caught hugging the Iraqi president on camera shortly after the invasion of Kuwait. Nobody is suggesting raiding the Gujral clan’s mansions in Delhi!

The second ‘proof’ is a quote from an interview given to the Russian publication Komsomolskaya Pravda in which Ilumzhinov comes out with gems such as: “Saddam not only reduced inflation but also raised people’s wages. These are things not every leader would be capable of. Everything is fine in Baghdad.” Unfortunately, that interview dates back to 1996.

Keene then offers the fact that Ilumzhinov flew out from Baghdad on March 18, the last private jet to leave Baghdad. Is it possible that Saddam was on the plane? Well, anything is possible, but we need something better than a mere possibility. There is the matter of Ilumzhinov’s – and Kalmykia’s – sudden wealth, but there could be other reasons.

The Kalmykian president has always been a figure of some controversy; following the fall of Communism he became the head of over fifty firms, including banks. Like many others in his position there has been speculation that he abused his power to amass wealth.

But that is a long way off from saying that he owes it all to his friendship with Saddam – and an even greater stretch to say that he has offered sanctuary to his friend!

U.S. intelligence sources have placed Saddam in Iraq itself. Of course given the track record, U.S. ‘intelligence’ must be taken with a tablespoon of salt! Hmm, come to think of it, perhaps Saddam Hussein is in Kalmykia!

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