Persoverzicht maart 2003

3 maart 2003

- Chechen referendum: preparations almost completed; Moscow to grant extensive autonomy; separatists conduct propaganda against referendum: (i) Meeting the Chechen leadership and heads of Chechen districts in Grozny last Friday, Presidential Deputy Chief of Staff Surkov pointed out that Moscow is ready to grant Chechnya extensive autonomy within Russia after the 23 March constitutional referendum. Surkov is quoted as saying that “acceptable forms can be found for those who do not want to be part of Russia”. (ii) Visiting Chechnya with a Council of Europe and OSCE observer delegation on Saturday, Chairman of the Central Elections Commission (CEC) Veshnyakov said local officials had almost completed preparations for the referendum. (iv) In a televised interview last Friday, Ichkerian/Chechen separatist President Maskhadov repeated a threat to disrupt the referendum, saying “if they go ahead with it, there will be kidnapping, murder”. (All media, RIAN, Interfax, MT)

- Much-debated Budanov case sent for retrial: Last Friday, the military board of Russia’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial for Col. Yury Budanov. A North Caucasus military court had cleared Budanov of criminal responsibility considering him temporarily insane at the time of the murder of a Chechen girl. The Supreme Court pointed to numerous procedural violations committed by the North Caucasus Military Court while trying Budanov. (All media)

4 maart 2003

- Moscow to withdraw excess troops from Chechnya: Visiting Grozny yesterday, Chief of Russia’s General Staff Kvashnin said that on 5th March Defence Ministry forces would start to depart from Chechnya, pointing out that the withdrawal of excess troops will not influence the security situation in the republic. Kvashnin added that all functions for maintaining order had been transferred from the Defence Ministry to the Interior Ministry. According to Defence Ministry Spokesman Deryabin, over 1,000 servicemen as well as combat equipment will be pulled out of Chechnya in March. (All media)

- Military reports further clashes in Chechnya: (i) According to the combined federal forces in the Northern Caucasus, federal troops in Chechnya lost seven servicemen killed during last week, one helicopter was also destroyed. Interfax reports that in a clash in Argun last Saturday, three members of the Interior Ministry’s special task force have been killed. Today’s Izvestia rejects earlier reports about an attempt on the life of Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov. (ii) Federal forces are reported to have thwarted an attempt by Chechen rebels to smuggle an Igla anti-aircraft missile into Grozny to shoot down a military helicopter on the day of the referendum. (Rossia Channel, Interfax, RIAN, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta)

- OSCE, CoE assess mission to Chechnya: Following a visit to Chechnya, the OSCE and Council of Europe issued a preliminary statement yesterday, expressing concerns about the accuracy of the lists of voters and noting the pending violence in Chechnya. The statement reads that OSCE and CoE institutions could consider a joint assessment mission prior to the date of the referendu

5 maart 2003

- Politicians slam PACE committee’s proposal on Chechnya tribunal: Media comment on the proposal by PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee to set up a military tribunal to investigate crimes against humanity in Chechnya. Head of Duma’s International Affairs Committee Rogozin is quoted as saying that the proposal was drafted by “a rabid foe of Russia”. According to first Deputy Chairman of Federation Council Goreglyad, quoted by Interfax, for many European parliamentarians the problem of Chechnya remains difficult to grasp, which explains the appearance of such unacceptable ideas. Nezavisimaya gazeta doubts that the proposal of PACE will ever be put into practice (All media).

- Putin, Cabinet discuss compensations to Chechen residents; withdrawal of excessive troops from Chechnya begins today: (i) Yesterday President Putin discussed with the Cabinet compensations to Chechen residents for loss of property and housing. Prime Minister Kasyanov promised to make a decision on the issue “in the immediate future”. He put the number of people eligible for compensation at 280,000. TVS commented that restoring the housing sector of Chechnya would be possible in 5-6 years at the earliest (All media). (ii) Meeting with President Putin in the Kremlin yesterday, Defence Minister Ivanov said that the withdrawal of more than 1,200 troops from Chechnya beginning today will not affect the security situation in the republic (Interfax, The Moscow Times, Kommersant).

6 maart 2003

- Prominent supporter of Kadyrov killed in Chechnya: Yesterday a bomb explosion killed Dzhabrail Yamadayev, a prominent supporter of Chechen Administration head Kadyrov. Yamadayev belonged to a powerful Chechen clan that fought against federal troops in the first Chechen war but then switched sides. Kommersant notes that the special forces unit headed by him was the most successful in “the hunt for rebel leaders” (All media).

- OSCE, CoE to send observers to Chechen referendum: Interfax reports that OSCE and CoE observers will monitor the Chechen referendum. PACE may also take a decision in favour of sending its observers to Chechnya. A recommendation welcoming such a decision was passed by its Political Affairs Committee yesterday (Interfax, Izvestia).

7 maart 2003

- Seven checkpoints to be closed in Grozny; 50 servicemen sentenced for crimes against Chechens since beginning of conflict: (i) Interfax quotes the administration of Grozny as saying that seven checkpoints will be closed in Grozny before the end of March. Local police patrols and mobile Chechen traffic police posts will replace them. (ii) Senior military prosecutor Savenkov said yesterday that about 50 servicemen, including seven officers, have been sentenced for various crimes against the Chechen population since the beginning of the conflict. According to Savenkov, these crimes “chiefly involve murders, attempts on people’s lives and health and property-related crimes” (Interfax).

10 maart 2003

- Rushailo visits Chechnya: Security Council Secretary Rushailo, who visited Grozny last week, said that almost all conditions for a successful constitutional referendum have been created in Chechnya. His visit focused on security conditions in Chechnya both during the referendum and after it (Interfax, Vesti).

- Comments on PACE proposal to set up tribunal for Chechnya: Electronic media continue to comment on a recent proposal by PACE Legal Affairs Committee to set up an international tribunal for Chechnya. Weekly news reviews by TVS and NTV included detailed reports about the issue. Interfax quotes head of Chechen Administration Kadyrov as strongly criticising the proposal. According to Kadyrov, such tribunals are “over-politicised and play into the hands of certain political forces”.

11 maart 2003

- Chechen referendum: PACE not to send observers; referendum to mark start of political process; refugees pressured?: (i) Interfax quotes head of Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee Margelov as saying that PACE decided not to sent its observers to the Chechen referendum for security, not political, reasons. According to Margelov, PACE is very positive about the referendum itself (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Izvestia). (ii) Izvestia carries a front-page interview with presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov who analyses the prospects of a political process in the republic with the referendum marking its beginning (Izvestia). (iii) Kommersant reports that some refugees from a tent camp in Ingushetia claimed that they were pressured to vote in the upcoming referendum saying that someone had linked their access to food aid with the vote. However, officials denied such allegations.

- Rogozin to visit refugee camps in Ingushetia: Kommersant reports that head of Duma’s International Affairs Committee Rogozin arrives in Ingushetia today. He will analyse the situation in the camps of Chechen refugees based in Ingushetia (Kommersant).

- Withdrawal of excessive troops from Chechnya: Media report that another train carrying servicemen and military equipment left Chechnya yesterday under a troops reduction programme. It was the third and final contingent of federal forces pulled out of Chechnya in recent days. Vremya novostei notes the overall slow pace of troops withdrawal saying that “if the withdrawal of ‘surplus forces’ continues at the present rate, it will take several years”. (Interfax, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times).

12 maart 2003

- Chechen referendum: presidential aide rules out pressure on Chechen refugees; slams PACE for refusal to monitor referendum: (i) Yesterday presidential aide Yastrzhembsky said that any attempts to pressure voters in the upcoming Chechen referendum will be blocked. He stressed that “if there are any recorded signals, there will be enough power and political will to rein in such officials” (Interfax). (ii) Yastrzhembsky also slammed PACE for refusing to send observers to the referendum. He said that “there are more political games to this decision than any desire to promote real processes in Chechnya” (Interfax).

- Bombing of government building in Chechnya solved: All media report that detectives have identified everyone involved in the December 2002 bombing of the government building in the Chechen capital. Three of the attackers had been arrested. All of them were members of a rebel group (All media).

13 maart 2003

- Putin criticises law enforcement situation: (i) Speaking at a meeting of law enforcement agencies yesterday, President Putin stressed that “the analysis of last year’s situation in the law enforcement area does not give grounds for any optimistic conclusions”. He emphasised that more than 1.8 million people were victims of violent crime last year and noted that, “although the overall number of recorded crimes dropped by 15%, concealed crime remains outside the statistics framework”. Putin pointed to the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism and violent crime as priorities in fighting crime. He also told law enforcers to ensure that upcoming elections be fair and democratic. (ii) President Putin also stressed that “not a single measure within the framework of the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya should be taken without a prosecutor” to reduce human rights violations in the republic. (All media)

- United Russia holds meeting in Chechnya, discusses party reform in Moscow: (i) Yesterday in Argun, the Chechen branch of pro-Kremlin United Russia held a conference ahead of the 23 March Chechen constitutional referendum. Kommersant points out that there are about 8,000 United Russia members in Chechnya. (ii) In Moscow, leaders of United Russia discussed the preparation of the party congress on 29 March. It is expected that the congress will re-distribute competences and adopt the new party rules. Interior Minister Gryzlov, Chairman of United Russia’s Supreme Council, apparently rejected media reports about his intention to resign from his ministerial post in order to pursue a more active political career. (First Channel, Interfax, Rossiiskaya gazeta, Kommersant)

- Yabloko opposes Chechen referendum: In a statement yesterday, Yabloko party leader Yavlinsky said the Chechen constitutional referendum was not prepared properly and that a peace conference with all fighting parties should be held instead. He stressed that “it had been a mistake to exclude international agencies from the Chechen settlement and to disband the Duma-PACE commissions”. (Interfax)

- Chechen refugees wish to vote in referendum: (i) According to Head of Chechnya’s Election Commission Arsakhanov, over 10,000 refugees in Ingushetia would like to participate in the Chechen referendum. He said that 2 polling stations would be set up near the Chechnya-Ingushetia border. (ii) Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov signed a decree yesterday creating a coordination council on information policy aimed at providing support to local media and promoting “correct coverage of events in the republic”. (Interfax, Kommersant)

24 maart 2003

- Chechen referendum: high voter turnout; preliminary results: Yesterday the Chechnya constitutional referendum was held. All media note an unexpectedly high voter turnout reaching, according to various assessments, over 80-90%. According to Gazeta, the voter turnout was the highest in “the traditionally Wahhabi” mountainous regions of Chechnya. Izvestia comments that people risked their lives by going to polling stations but their resolution to vote was stronger than fear. Most dailies mention that the day before the referendum 46 rebels, including well-known field commanders, put down arms and voiced their support for the referendum. No criminal or terrorist excesses were registered during the referendum. RIAN reports that the final results will be known on Wednesday, while according to the first preliminary results announced by TVS, over 90% voted for the new Chechen constitution and for the laws on the election of president and parliament. Interfax informs that over 40 international observers drew up a paper stating that the referendum was held “within international norms”. Rossiyskaya gazeta quotes head of Central Elections Commission Veshnyakov as saying that the elections of Chechen President could be held already in six months (All media).

- New Chechen Supreme Court Chairman appointed: Interfax reports that President Putin appointed Ziyavdi Zaurbekov chairman of the Chechen Supreme Court for the period of six years. He also appointed 9 district and city judges in the republic. Izvestia emphasizes the importance of the new appointments noting that this will allow to abandon the temporary pattern in the work of Chechen courts (Izvestia, Interfax).

26 maart 2003

- FM Ivanov asks for help in Chechnya reconstruction: Yesterday Foreign Minister Ivanov urged international organizations, including Muslim groups, to take a more active part in reviving the Chechen economy (Interfax, The Moscow Times).

- Sultygov calls for broad representation in new Chechen parliament, wide application of amnesty: Yesterday presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov supported the idea that various political forces, including former Chechen deputies, be represented in a new parliament. Sultygov also spoke in favour of widely applying an amnesty to the participants in the North Caucasus conflict, including soldiers who were either convicted or who are currently in trial for various offences committed during the conflict (Interfax).

27 maart 2003

- Official results of Chechen referendum announced; Kadyrov to contest presidential elections: (i) According to the official results of the Chechen referendum announced yesterday, 95.97% of Chechens voted for the draft constitution, 95.4% backed the presidential election law and 96.05% supported the draft law on parliamentary elections. Voter turnout reached 89.48% (Interfax). (ii) Media inform about international reaction to the results of the referendum. Interfax quotes CoE Secretary General Schwimmer as saying that the referendum will promote political settlement in Chechnya. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Vershbow stressed that the referendum could lay the basis for stability in the republic (Interfax). (iii) Immediately after the announcement of referendum results, head of Chechen Administration Kadyrov made public his intention to run for the Chechen presidency (Kommersant, Interfax).

- Budanov to be retried by jury: Colonol Budanov accused of killing a Chechen girl will be retried by a jury following his request. The trial will begin on 9 April. In December the North Caucasus military court found Budanov insane at the time of the murder. The Supreme Court overturned that decision in February. According to the relatives of the murdered girl, quoted by Nezavisimaya gazeta, Budanov’s request for a jury trial should be interpreted as evidence that he is absolutely sane (Interfax, The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

28 maart 2003

- Putin on priority tasks for political settlement in Chechnya: Meeting with Chechen Administration head Kadyrov yesterday, Putin outlined the priority tasks for a political settlement in Chechnya: the beginning of joint work to draft an agreement on power sharing between the federal centre and Chechnya; a law on amnesty drafted for Chechnya, and the beginning of preparations for presidential elections in Chechnya. In this context media point out that yesterday Putin praised Kadyrov saying that positive referendum results were “his big personal success”. Kommersant notes that “after such words it will be difficult for the Kremlin not to support Kadyrov”. Speaking on economic rehabilitation, Putin made what Kommersant calls “a sensational statement” proposing to change the rules of compensation payments to Chechen residents and to divide them into two parts, to be repaid in 2003 and in 2004. Such early dates for compensation payments have not been mentioned before (All media).

31 maart 2003

- Media on war in Iraq: Media report about the course of U.S. led military operation; beginning of humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq; consequences of the war for Russia and worldwide anti-war rallies. (i) Izvestia reports about serious economic consequences of the war in Iraq for the Russian economy. The daily stresses that the war had impact on hundreds of Russian enterprises, and it is not only oil companies that suffer losses. “Thousands of people lost their jobs, important contracts on supply of equipment were disrupted”. (ii) Rossiyskaya gazeta publishes eyewitness report of its correspondent stating that a humanitarian catastrophe has begun in Iraq. According to the report, in Basra only, some 1200 people are on the verge of hunger death. Commenting on the UN decision to restart the Oil-for-Food Programme, Kommersant stresses that the Council’s decision contained not the merest hint of criticism of the UK and USA. Moreover, “it accepts the need to collaborate with the occupying forces”. (iii) Rossiyskaya gazeta deplores dangers of current levels of anti-Americanism in Russia, nothing that there is not s single “shahid” among Russian politicians who would dare to publicly support the U.S. Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that with the start of the war in Iraq, there was a splash of anti-American sentiments in Russian regions. (iv) Kommersant informs that Chechen rebel leader Maskhadov announced his support to the U.S. led military operation in Iraq.

- PACE to discuss Chechen issue: (i) According to presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov, the issue of human rights in Chechnya is unlikely to trigger a heated debate at the upcoming PACE session to open this week. According to Sultygov, PACE has become milder on Chechnya some time ago. Kommersant reports that Maskhadov supporters who gathered in Strasburg yesterday ask the Council of Europe not to recognize the recent constitutional referendum in Chechnya (Kommersant, Interfax). (ii) Nezavisimaya gazeta publishes an interview with one of main opponents of Russia on the Chechen issue, PACE deputy Bindig, who claims that Moscow has not disproved as yet accusations of human rights violations in Chechnya.

- Kudrin cites Russia’s priorities in Iraq: Deputy PM Kudrin was quoted by RIAN in Paris as saying that Russia’s major priority in Iraq was to secure the implementation by future Iraqi authorities of Iraq’s obligations to pay its $8bn debt to Russia. The second priority Kudrin mentioned is to ensure that Russian companies get access to the projects they had started in Iraq. He also said that Rosneft was quite experienced in putting out oil torches in Chechnya, and the company’s experience might be of use in the post-war restoration of Iraq.

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