Persoverzicht november 2002

4 november
DM Ivanov suspends reduction of armed forces in Chechnya: Defence Minister Ivanov announced yesterday that the reduction of troops in Chechnya would be suspended. According to Ivanov, “the group has got down to a large-scale, tough but targeted special operation across Chechnya”. He pointed out that more and more information is becoming available that “militants are being trained across Chechnya and beyond for new acts of terror” and “in some communities suicide terrorists are being recruited”. Kommersant believes that Ivanov’s statement was triggered by the threats of new terrorist acts voiced by Chechen warlord Basayev (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Vedomosti).
Mi-8 helicopter shot down in Chechnya - 9 people killed: On Sunday a federal Mi-8 helicopter was shot down on the outskirts of Grozny. The helicopter was downed by a rocket fired from a movable air defence launcher. Nine people were killed, including deputy commander of the 58th army (Interfax, Kommersant, Izvestia).
Basayev assumes responsibility for hostage seizure: Chechen warlord Basayev claimed responsibility for the hostage seizure noting that Chechen separatist leader Maskadov knew nothing about the plan and that Chechen rebels will launch further attacks on Russian cities. Basayev also announced his decision to give up all his official positions in the separatist leadership in order to head a battalion of suicide terrorists. Presidential aide Yastrzhembsky commented that “Basayev is trying to shield Maskhadov from blame, to save him for further political games”. Media also report about the positive reaction of the Foreign Ministry to reports that the U.S. is likely to blacklist some Chechen rebel groups (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times, Izvestia, Vremya novostei, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vedomosti).

Duma adopts legislation limiting media coverage of anti-terrorist operations: (i) On Friday the State Duma adopted in the third and final reading amendments to the laws on media and on fight against terrorism. The new amendments bar the spread of information seen as hampering anti-terrorist operations and endangering lives. Several commentators have said that the new rules could be used to further limit the coverage of sensitive issues, including the war in Chechnya (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei, Vremya MN, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Parlamentskaya gazeta); (ii) On Friday the State Duma also adopted amendments to existing legislation prohibiting the return of bodies of killed hostage-takers to their relatives or revealing their place of burial (Vremya MN, Kommersant).
Duma condemns Chechen congress in Copenhagen, urges European court to repeal verdict on 11 Chechens detained in Georgia: (i) On Friday the State Duma passed a resolution condemning the recent Chechen congress in Copenhagen. The resolution was carried by 365 votes against four. The resolution notes that the congress “was aimed at broadening financial assistance for international terrorists committing crimes in Russia and outside it” (Interfax); (ii) On Friday the State Duma adopted a resolution urging the European Court on Human Rights to repeal its 4 October verdict, which is delaying the extradition to Russia of 11 Chechen rebels detained in Georgia. The resolution points out that such a verdict “creates an illusion of impunity among terrorists” (Interfax).
6 november
Putin opposes mass operations in Chechnya, but says clearly targeted anti-terrorist measures should continue: Meeting with Chechen Administration head Kadyrov in Maikop (Adygeya region), President Putin said that the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya should continue as long as needed, however, the anti-terrorist measures “must be clearly targeted in their nature, and there must be no mass operations” (Interfax). Discussing the fight against terrorism with the governors of Southern regions, Putin pointed out that part of responsibility for the security of people rests with regional authorities (Kommersant).
Sweep operations in Chechnya continue, apartments blown up: Interfax reports that three large-scale special operations were held in Chechnya within 24 hours, in which six rebels were killed. Following Sunday’s federal helicopter crash, three apartment buildings were blown up near the federal military base in Khankala “to ensure the security of federal aircraft flights”. Kommersant reports that the people who lived in those buildings had no time to take their belongings with them, and it is not clear when new housing will be provided. Interfax informs that Chechen authorities strictly oppose the demolition plans (Kommersant, Interfax, Izvestia).
DM Ivanov: pullout of troops from Chechnya only after liquidation of rebel leaders, strikes abroad possible: Defence Minister Ivanov said yesterday that the pullout of troops from Chechnya will be resumed only after the liquidation of bandit formations’ leaders and their accomplices. He also pointed out the pullout will depend on the situation in the republic. The Moscow Times quotes DM Ivanov as saying that the military will be given the power to carry out strikes abroad, including on terrorist bases and other locations where individuals suspected of sponsoring terrorism could be hiding. According to Ivanov, “the armed forces will commission the development of high-precision weaponry capable of extensive destruction” (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
7 november
Chechen Administration Head: “no more large-scale mopping-up operations in Chechnya”: (i) Commenting on his talks with President Putin in Maikop on Tuesday, Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov said that “no more large-scale mopping-up operations will be held in Chechnya”. According to Kadyrov, Putin assured him that “the anti-terrorist operation would be strictly targeted” (Interfax); (ii) The Chechen government has decided to inquire into the circumstances of the demolition of apartment houses near the Khankala military base (Interfax).
Presidential human rights envoy urges to cancel conference on Chechnya: Presidential human rights envoy for Chechnya Sultygov urged Russian rights activists to cancel a planned conference on peace in Chechnya, saying that holding it would amount to giving in to the demands of the terrorists (The Moscow Times).
Heads of Russian/Georgian security councils meet in Moscow: Yesterday the heads of Russian and Georgian Security Councils, Rushailo and Dzhaparidze, met in Moscow. Dzhaparidze informed that Chechnya’s representative office in Tbilisi had been closed. Rushailo called on Georgia to avoid delaying the extradition of the Chechen rebels who were detained in Georgia in August and are currently being held in custody in Tbilisi (Interfax).
8 november
Police says terrorist network behind hostage seizure and McDonald’s bombing: An official of the Moscow Police headquarters said yesterday that criminals who blew up a car outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow on 19 October and the rebels who took hostages were members of the same Chechen terrorist network. According to the official, the detainees in the McDonald’s explosion said that one of the hostage takers was the mastermind behind the explosion. The official also claimed that police controls and investigations made the terrorist group give up plans of at least four other terrorist attacks (Interfax, NTV, TVS, RTR Channels).
Situation in Chechnya on public holiday “relatively calm”: (i) Interfax reports that the situation in Chechnya on yesterday’s public holiday was “relatively calm”. According to Interfax, the FSB receives complaints from people involved in small and medium businesses, from whom rebels are trying to extort money “allegedly to pay for the bodies of the terrorists killed in Moscow”. (ii) Interfax informs that as a result of a bomb explosion in Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district one police officer was killed and three other servicemen were wounded.
A separatist leader to be extradited by Qatar?; Poland refuses to close Chechen centres: (i) Qatar is studying Russia’s request for extradition of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a Chechen separatist leader, whose involvement in the recent hostage seizure became evident from his intercepted telephone conversations with the terrorists. TV reports say his extradition is very likely (Interfax, NTV, TVS, RTR Channels). (ii) Lenta.ru reports that Poland refused to follow Moscow’s request to close Chechen information centres on Polish territory.
Strasbourg court rules against extradition of detained rebels from Georgia until additional proof is presented by Russia: NTV Channel reported that the Strasbourg Human Rights Court ruled yesterday that the extradition of detained Chechen rebels from Georgia to Russia should be delayed until Russia presents additional proof. The additional materials are to be presented before 24 November.
11 november
Putin announces dates for Chechen referendum; no to talks with Maskhadov: Meeting with a group of pro-Moscow Chechen political figures and businessmen yesterday, President Putin denied any possibility of talks with Chechen separatist leader Maskhadov stressing that “those who choose Maskhadov choose war”. During the meeting Putin indicated new tentative dates for the referendum on a Chechen constitution – March-April 2003 (Interfax, Kommersant, Izvestia, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
Former Chechen PM appointed federal Minister for Chechnya: At the end of last week Chechen Prime Minister Ilyasov was appointed federal Minister for Chechnya. He will replace Vladimir Yelagin. The name of a new Chechen PM has not been announced as yet. Izvestia comments that the appointment of Ilyasov may seriously change both the status of the federal Minister for Chechnya and the political situation in the republic. The daily believes that the new powers of Ilyasov may exceed those of Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s Administration (Interfax, Izvestia, Kommersant).
Participants in conference on peace in Chechnya call on heads of EU states to “help end Chechen war”: Last Saturday some 200 participants in the Moscow conference on peace in Chechnya adopted an address to heads of EU states asking them to “help end the Chechen war”. The conference participants underscored the need for “political negotiations between the two sides” without including the names of potential negotiators, as some of the participants did not agree that it should be Maskhadov. Leader of Yabloko party Yavlinsky who also addressed the conference called its timing inappropriate noting that some aspects of its resolution should be revised after the hostage crisis (Kommersant, Interfax).
Unexpected developments in famous Budanov’s case: Yesterday Health Minister Shevchenko withdrew the conclusions of a psychiatric test of colonel Budanov accused of murdering a Chechen young woman. The court hearing, originally planned for 19 November, was postponed. Budanov’s attorneys protested against this move (NTV Channel).

Vremya novostei stresses that the dialogue on Chechnya will not be that easy today. It notes that the EU is a much tougher negotiator on the Chechen issue than the U.S.: it separates the criminal problem of terrorism from the political problems of Chechnya, and insists on a dialogue with separatists.
12 november
EU-Russia summit finds solution to Kaliningrad issue; harsh discussions on Chechnya: Most Russian dailies point to harsh discussions on Chechnya stressing that Putin denied any reproaches that Moscow suppresses freedom in Chechnya (See Articles on the EU in Russian newspapers).
Putin to meet Schroeder, pay visit to Norway: (i) Interfax reports that at today’s meeting with President Putin in Oslo German Chancellor Schroeder might raise the issue of political settlement in Chechnya. Other topics for discussion will include the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq and bilateral ties. Nezavisimaya gazeta points out that the two leaders will also address joint efforts in the fight against international terrorism. (ii) Vremya novostei informs that the programme of Putin’s visit to Norway at the invitation of its King Harald V was considerably shortened following the recent hostage crisis in Moscow – instead of the originally planned two full days, Putin will spend in Norway only 20 hours. The Moscow Times reports that Oslo will also urge Putin to hold peace talks with Chechen rebels.
(i)The Moscow Interior Department announced yesterday that up to 12 accomplices of Barayev’s gang, which had taken hostages in Moscow, have not been caught yet. The police claimed they know their names and contacts (Interfax). (ii) Shabalkin, representative of military headquarters in the North Caucasus, told reporters yesterday that Chechen separatist leader Maskhadov had rewarded several warlords whose supporters took part in the Moscow hostage seizure (Interfax). (iii) Yakha Nezerkoyeva, an ethnic Chechen who had been among the Moscow hostages, said she will sue the press for inappropriate reports. She was detained on suspicion of being involved in the hostage seizure but later on released. Some articles directly accused her of involvement in the terrorist act (Kommersant, Interfax).
Defence Ministry to inspect its troops in Chechnya: Izvestia reports that the Military Inspections Office of the Defence Ministry is to hold the first large-scale inspection of its troops in Chechnya since the beginning of the second military campaign in the republic. The daily informs about the preparations for the inspection, on the eve of which another federal helicopter crashed in Chechnya – this time due to technical reasons and without any victims.
Most dailies note the harsh character of discussions on Chechnya and quote Putin’s remarks during the press conference stressing that Putin denied any reproaches that Moscow suppresses freedom in Chechnya. Trud points out that it was not Kaliningrad, but the fight against terrorism, which dominated the summit’s agenda. Novye izvestia writes that the results of discussions on Chechnya can only be interpreted as a further escalation of contradictions between the EU and Russia.
13 november
Putin continues discussion on Chechnya with Schroeder in Oslo: Following their meeting, President Putin Putin expressed his readiness to listen to all well-intentioned advice on Chechnya, according to Interfax. Interfax also reports that Schroeder has backed the constitutional process that is currently going on in Chechnya saying that the process opens the way to the political settlement in the republic. Izvestia comments that “Putin’s main ally in Brussels was not the EU but NATO Secretary General Robertson, while in Oslo it was German Chancellor Schroeder”. Commenting on discussions with Schroeder over Iraq, Putin said that Russia and Germany agree on this issue. Rossiyskaya gazeta informs about the meeting in an article “Schroeder again supported Russia” (Kommersant, Izvestia, Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Parlamentskaya gazeta).
According to Norwegian PM Kjell Magne Bondevik, the discussions on Chechnya were “frank and straightforward”. Bondevik expressed concern over the problem of Chechen refugees, but condemned the hostage taking in Moscow. Putin stressed the global nature of terrorism and noted that “only active, coordinated efforts can successfully fight terrorism” (See Economic headlines).
300 Chechen refugee families from Ingushetia ask for asylum in Kazakhstan: Over 300 Chechen families living in refugee camps on Ingush territory have asked for a temporary asylum in Kazakhstan – the country to which Stalin exiled the entire Chechen nation for a decade (Lenta.ru, The Moscow Times).
New Chechen PM, deputy FM, deputy Moscow Mayor and deputy head of Central Elections Commission appointed: (i) Mikhail Babich, former deputy Governor of the Ivanovo region, was appointed yesterday as Chechen Prime Minister to replace Stanislav Ilyasov. Kommersant notes that in his new position Babich will have to manage funds for Chechnya while he was involved in a number of scandals but managed to prove his innocence. (ii) President Putin appointed Vladimir Chyzhov, head of pan-European cooperation department of the Foreign Ministry, as Deputy Foreign Minister (Interfax, Kommersant). (iii) Yesterday Moscow Mayor Lyzhkov appointed Mikhail Men as his deputy. Until recently Men was the deputy Governor of the Moscow region. Kommersant interprets this appointment as a “final split” between Moscow Mayor Lyzhkov and Moscow region Governor Gromov (Kommersant, Izvestia, Vremya novostei, Vremya MN). (iv) Olga Zastrozhnaya was appointed yesterday deputy Chairman of the Central Elections Commission to replace Valentin Vlasov who was appointed Russian Ambassador to Malta. According to Kommersant, the new appointment points to the strong position of Commission’s Chairman Veshnyakov and predicts his re-election for a new term next spring (Kommersant, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

Vremya novostei publishes an article “A friend on Chechnya is a friend indeed” by Andrey Denisov and Katerina Labetskaya. The daily focuses on the discussions over the Chechen issue held by Putin in Europe. According to the paper, it is important for Putin to understand who of his international partners really welcome a political process in Chechnya and for whom discussions on the Chechen issue are a matter of his/her own policy. The daily believes that Danish PM belongs to the second group.

Vremya MN pays attention to the general “cool atmosphere of the summit”. Commenting on the Chechnya discussions, the daily says that the participants in the summit had to tacitly agree with the President of Russia that not the separatist tendencies in particular regions but a joint rebuff to the forces of international terrorism should be a priority for the international community. As for the solution on the Kaliningrad issue, Vremya MN writes that countries of the West and Germany in particular, are highly satisfied with the compromise on the issue. The article by Evgeny Bovkun is entitled “Norwegian P.S. to Brussels”.
14 november
Vremya novostei comments on the “circumcision remark” made by President Putin at the press conference in Brussels. The article informs about the negative reaction in the West to Putin’s remark, which was delayed due to inaccurate translation. According to the daily, Putin’s harsh reaction can be explained by the difficult discussions he had with his EU counterparts: all attempts of Putin, Prodi and Solana to discuss the major issues of bilateral relations at the summit, met with peremptory criticism of Moscow’s actions in Chechnya by Danish PM Rasmussen.
18 november
Two Red Cross workers abducted in Chechnya released: Two workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the North Caucasus who had been abducted in Chechnya last Wednesday, were released yesterday without a ransom. The suspected abductors were detained (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times).
General killed in Grozny: On Friday unidentified rebels shot General Shifrin dead in Grozny. Shifrin was the head of military construction in Chechnya. During the search for the killers, two policemen were shot dead and two were wounded (Kommersant, Vremya novostei ).
Tax police establishes misappropriations in Stavropol office of Danish Refugee Council: Interfax reports that, according to the Stavropol tax police, the branch office of the Danish Refugee Council in the region misappropriated funds allocated to purchase humanitarian aid for Chechen refugees living in the territory. Tax police has recommended an international audit of the Council’s office.
19 november
Head of regional TV channel resigns following criticism over Chechnya programme: The head of a Tatarstan-owned TV channel said yesterday that he had resigned under pressure from Moscow after showing a programme in which participants called for peace in Chechnya during the Moscow hostage crisis (The Moscow Times).
Misappropriations in Chechnya’s Health Ministry: Yesterday a criminal case was opened against former Health Minister of Chechnya Magomadov who currently lives in Paris. Magomadov is being accused of misappropriating about 35 million roubles in 2000 (Kommersant, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
20 november
Izvestia publishes an interview with George W. Bush entitled “Bin Laden has his own interests in Chechnya”. Several dailies also analyse the effects of NATO expansion for Russia. Izvestia publishes an article by presidential aide Yastrzhembsky on the issue (Izvestia, Interfax, Kommersant, The Moscow Times, Vremya MN, Vremya novostei, Trud).
UN appeals to international donors for $34 million to help Chechen refugees: Yesterday UN institutions for Chechnya and the North Caucasus have called on the international community to allot $33.7 million to provide aid to the Chechen civilian population in 2003 (Interfax, Kommersant, The Moscow Times, Izvestia).
22 november
Speaking on Russia’s NTV channel yesterday, President Bush said that the Chechen issue is Russia’s internal affair and will hopefully be resolved peacefully. Interfax reports that Putin and Bush will meet at least three times in 2003 (All media).
New prosecutor of Chechnya appointed: Interfax reports that Yury Ponomaryov was appointed to the post of acting prosecutor of Chechnya. Before this appointment, Ponomaryov served as the prosecutor of Grozny. Rossiyskaya gazeta notes the high professional qualities of the new prosecutor (Izvestia, Interfax, Rossiyakaya gazeta).
Norwegian reporter accuses Russian security officials of censorship: Norwegian TV reporter Steinfeld accused Russian security officials of censorship, claiming that they had seized and erased tapes he made for a report on Chechen refugees (The Moscow Times).
25 november
Chechen warlord Basayev threatens with new terror attacks: Shamil Basayev, Chechen warlord who had assumed responsibility for the Moscow hostage crisis, said in an open letter to NATO leaders that his group would launch new terror attacks in Russia if it does not pull out its troops out of Chechnya. Interfax quotes Chechen police chief Peshkoyev as saying that this message is “nothing but death throes”. Presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov described Basayev’s letter as an ultimatum and said that all Western countries should help Russia fight against terrorism (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times).
Minister on Chechnya Ilyasov on referendum; return on refugees: (i) Federal Minister on Chechnya Ilyasov said on Friday that a referendum on the Chechen constitution would most likely be conducted in March 2003. Ilyasov pointed out that according to the draft constitution, the prime minister of the republic and all key ministers will be appointed only with the consent of the parliament (Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Novye izvestia). (ii) Ilyasov informed on Thursday that about 20 thousand people living in tent camps in Ingushetia would return to Chechnya by the end of the year. The same number of people is expected to return in the first half of 2003. According to Ilyasov, currently there are 69,000 Chechen refugees living on Ingush territory (RBK).
Second conference on Chechnya in Copenhagen: Some 80 human rights activists, Chechen refugees, two Danish lawmakers and Duma deputy Rybakov attended the second gathering on Chechnya held in Copenhagen in a month amid tense relations between Denmark and Russia. Izvestia quotes Russian ambassador to Denmark as saying that “the relations between Russia and Denmark have become dependent on a small group of local politicians who specialize on the promotion of the Chechen issue” (Izvestia, The Moscow Times, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
26 november
Strasbourg court repeals recommendation not to extradite detained Chechens to Russia: The European Court on Human Rights decided yesterday to lift its own moratorium on the extradition to Russia of eight Chechens detained by Georgia. According to Interfax, Georgia and Russia will now resolve this issue in line with bilateral and multilateral agreements. Kommersant quotes Georgian officials as saying that two of the detained rebels are Georgian citizens, and their extradition will most probably be out of question (Interfax, Kommersant).
Chechnya: rally against abductions; refugees unwilling to return without security guarantees: (i) Yesterday hundreds of villagers from the Grozny region picketed the government building in the Chechen capital protesting against a wave of abductions this month (The Moscow Times). (ii) Chechen refugees living in a tent camp in the Ingush village of Ordhonikidzevskaya asked human rights organizations for assistance explaining that people do not want to return to Chechnya without security guarantees. Chechen Administration head of staff Rudnik Dudayev admitted yesterday that the absence of security guarantees for displaced persons delays their return to Chechnya, noting that about 100 inhabitants of the republic went missing in one month. He also expressed hope that the situation would change as the “military took note of the problem” (Interfax).
(i) Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio yesterday U.S. Ambassador to Russia Vershbow said that the U.S. is prepared to help Russia normalize the situation in Chechnya if Moscow asks for such assistance. He said the U.S. is already doing a great deal to cope with the terrorist aspect of the Chechen problem noting that Chechnya is both an internal and international problem. (ii) Chechen warlord Chupalayev sentenced to 16 years of prison: Yesterday a court in Pyatigorsk sentenced Chechen warlord Chupalayev to 16 years of prison. He was convicted of taking part in illegal armed formations and possessing weapons and explosives. Kommersant quotes Chupalayev’s defence attorneys as saying that his fault was not proved and the verdict was based on the fact that he was a friend of Chechen warlord Basayev (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Izvestia, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
Two former hostages sue Moscow city authorities: Two former hostages and the father of a hostage who was killed during the Moscow hostage crisis are suing the Moscow city administration for compensation for moral and material damage amounting to $2.5 million. The city and federal authorities are paying 50000 roubles in compensation to the former hostages and 100,000 (about €3300) to the relatives of those who died in the terror attack. Kommersant notes that such lawsuits have no precedents in Russia. Izvestia quotes the press secretary of the Moscow Mayor as saying that the city has nothing to do with what is going on in Chechnya and does not have the money to pay such compensations (Kommersant, Interfax, Izvestia, Vremya novostei).
27 november
Prosecutor General’s Office satisfied with extension of Zakayev’s custody term; additional evidence on Zakayev to be sent to Denmark: Yesterday the Office of the Russian Prosecutor General expressed satisfaction with a Danish court ruling to extend the term that Maskhadov’s envoy Akhmed Zakayev will be held in custody. Media report that Russian prosecutors will send additional evidence on Zakayev to Denmark, including evidence by convicted Chechen rebel Salman Raduyev, who is serving a life term in prison (Interfax, Kommersant).
Strasbourg court repeals recommendation not to extradite detained Chechens to Russia: The European Court on Human Rights decided yesterday to lift its own moratorium on the extradition to Russia of eight Chechens detained by Georgia. According to Interfax, Georgia and Russia will now resolve this issue in line with bilateral and multilateral agreements. Kommersant quotes Georgian officials as saying that two of the detained rebels are Georgian citizens, and their extradition will most probably be out of question (Interfax, Kommersant).
28 november
Putin’s rating reaches a record 83%: According to an opinion poll held by polling institute VTSIOM, Putin’s approval rating has reached 83%, for the first time since his election (in October it was 77%). Kommersant attributes the rise to the recent Moscow hostage crisis and pro-presidential comments by state media. However the daily points out that the picture is not as rosy when it comes to specific policy issues: 62% are not satisfied with the activities of the President in the sector of economic development and improvement of people’s well-being; 40% are not satisfied with the way Putin protects democracy and political freedoms; and 74% assess negatively the achievements of the President in the Chechen settlement (Kommersant, Interfax).
Putin meets with PACE head: Yesterday President Putin met with visiting PACE Chairman Schieder. Speaking on Chechnya, Putin admitted human rights violations in the republic adding that Russia “is interested in their eradication no less than others”. According to Interfax, Schieder pointed out that he “fully shared Russia’s position on the Kaliningrad issue and acknowledged Moscow’s right to raise it”. He also positively assessed the temporary settlement reached with the EU and added that PACE would cooperate with Russia on the issue (Interfax, Kommersant, The Moscow Times).
29 november
Officials comment on return of Chechen refugees: (i) Igor Yunash, first deputy federation migration service head, said that his office would try to sort out the issue of the closure of a Chechen refugee camp in Ingushetia’s Aki-Yurt village. Interfax reports that in reply to concern expressed by the EU, Yunash stressed that “refugees may return to Chechnya where they will be offered a chance to live in private houses or special-purpose temporary settlement centres; while those who want to stay in Ingushetia will be able to improve their living conditions in the republic”(Interfax). (ii) Chechen PM Babich signed orders on Thursday to compensate for the costs of temporary accommodation in private houses in Chechnya for refugees returning from Ingushetia. Chechen PM’s press secretary stressed that Chechnya wants to encourage all refugees living in shanty towns in Ingushetia to return before the end of the year but the return will be completely voluntary (Interfax). (iii) Izvestia carries an interview with UNICEF representative in Russia McCreery entitled “Return of refugees to Chechnya must be voluntary”.

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