Persoverzicht Tsjetsjenië - Januari 2004

5 januari 2004

- Units in Chechnya to be switched to contract basis in 2004: Interfax quotes Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying that the Defence Ministry will begin recruiting professional soldiers in 2004 to form the 42nd division and the Interior Ministry’s 46th brigade stationed in Chechnya (Interfax).

- 431 people kidnapped in Chechnya between January-November 2003: Interfax quotes Oleg Orlov, the head of the human rights NGO Memorial, as saying that in January-November 2003, 431 people were kidnapped in Chechnya. Of these people, 137 were freed, 47 were found dead, and 247 are still missing, he said. Orlov did not deny the involvement of rebels in some abductions, stressing at the same time that in most cases the forces involved are controlled by the federal troops and very often by Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov (Interfax).

6 januari 2004

- Businessman Dzhabrailov appointed Chechnya’s representative to Federation Council: Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov signed a decree appointing businessman Umar Dzhabrailov Chechnya’s representative to the Federation Council. Dzhabrailov will replace Akhmar Zavgayev, who was elected to the State Duma (Interfax).

8 januari 2004

- Maskhadov wounded?: Moskovsky komsomolets of 6 January reports that a week ago Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov was wounded when his group was ambushed by federal forces and Chechen militia. The daily notes that this information came from Chechen separatist Internet sites and seems reliable (Moskosvky komsomolets).

12 januari 2004

- Chechen PM Popov will not return to Chechnya: Nezavisimaya gazeta reports beneath the headline “Akhmad Kadyrov gets rid of the last representative of the federal centre in his entourage” that Chechen Prime Minister Anatoly Popov, who has undergone medical treatment in Moscow, did not keep his promise to return to work on 22 December and remains on leave. According to the paper, Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov is likely to replace Popov, who was the last representative of the federal centre in Kadyrov’s entourage, within the next two months, which will give him full control over the republic (Nezavisimaya gazeta).

14 januari 2004

- Chechen President to visit Saudi Arabia: Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov will leave for Saudi Arabia for a four-day visit today. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that this is the first foreign visit of Kadyrov as the Chechen President. Vremya novostei quotes Kadyrov as saying that the invitation to visit Saudi Arabia means the political recognition of the current Chechen authorities by Riyadh. The media also note that Kadyrov will take advantage of this visit to press Saudis to give up support for rebels fighting with federal forces. “I intend to describe the real situation in Chechnya to members of the Saudi elite and to depict an objective picture of events”, Kadyrov said (Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

- Irina Khakamada accuses Putin of hiding truth in Dubrovka hostage seizure: Irina Khakamada, a co-chairman of the Union of Right Forces who intends to run for the President, has published in Kommersant a full-page message entitled “To the citizens of Russia who suffered from state terrorism”. In the message, Khakamada has accused President Putin of hiding the truth about the Dubrovka hostage seizure. She claims that after her negotiations with the terrorists, she came to the conclusion that they did not plan to blow up the Dubrovka theatre centre, and the official authorities were not interested in saving all hostages. The message also reads that the hostage seizure helped the President to instigate the anti-Chechen hysteria and to continue the war in Chechnya (Kommersant).

16 januari 2004

- Putin addresses FSB Board: Yesterday President Putin addressed a regular annual meeting of the Federal Security Service’s Board. Izvestia points to new elements in this year’s address. Firstly, it was much less focused on the Chechen issue (last year it was a key topic of the address); secondly, Putin called for using the “latest methods” of combating terrorism; thirdly, Putin placed emphasis on issues that were traditionally considered to be less important in FSB activities, including economic security and the fight against corruption; and lastly, Putin raised a new issue for the FSB Boards – control over migration flows, which is officially a competence of the Interior Ministry. The daily notes that three times during his speech, the President mentioned the FSB’s role in counteracting arbitrary behaviour from government officials. The media also point to Putin’s warning that “while exposing violations of the law, security agencies must not exceed their authority”. Kommersant notes that the President voiced satisfaction with the FSB’s performance last year despite the record number of terrorist attacks in the country, which the FSB was unable to prevent (All media).

19 januari 2004

- Kadyrov concludes visit to Saudi Arabia: Yesterday Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov concluded his four-day visit to Saudi Arabia. Vremya novostei comments beneath the headline “Saudi Wahhabis promised to give money to Kadyrov and not to Maskhadov” that the main result of the visit is “the official recognition of the Kadyrov Administration by the authorities and business elite of a major Arab country”. During the visit, Kadyrov delivered a message from President Putin to the Saudi leadership, which appeals for support for Russia’s efforts to bring stability to Chechnya and rebuild the republic (Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Interfax).

- Putin defends human rights organisations in Chechnya: The Moscow Times reports that President Putin, known for his hard-line position on the war in Chechnya, said on Friday that human rights organisations should be allowed to work freely with Chechens. However, human rights activists have dismissed the statement as “as a pre-election ploy”. Putin made this remark during his meeting with Federal Minister for Chechnya Stanislav Ilyasov in response to Ilyasov’s comment that human rights organisations were causing “turmoil” among refugees and complicating the authorities’ efforts to close tent camps in neighbouring Ingushetia (The Moscow Times, Interfax).

20 januari 2004

- Kadyrov proposes life presidential term for Putin: Nezavisimaya gazeta contains a front-page article entitled “Kadyrov proposed to make Putin a tsar” reporting that yesterday Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov made a number of “unprecedented statements”. In particular, he spoke in favour of a life presidential term for President Putin. Kadyrov also offered $50 million for the head of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, “twice more than Americans had promised to pay for the head of Saddam Hussein” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya novostei).

- Chechen PM claims he waspoisoned: Rossiyskaya gazeta has published a front-page interview with Chechen Prime Minister Anatoly Popov, who has undergone a lengthy course of medical treatment and is currently on annual leave. The Prime Minister admits that he had been poisoned, although the Chechen authorities formerly denied this information (Rossiyskaya gazeta).

22 januari 2004

- Sultygov relieved of his duties as human rights envoy in Chechnya: Interfax reports that President Putin relieved Abdul-Khakim Sultygov of his duties as presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya. According to the Kremlin Administration, after the Chechen presidential election, Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov now bears full responsibility for the observance of human rights in Chechnya (Interfax).

23 januari 2004

- 10,000 complaints on human rights violations in Chechnya: Vremya novostei reports that in the last three years, representatives of the Council of Europe in Chechnya received about 10,000 complaints from residents of the republic on human rights violations. Over 2,000 of such complaints dealt with disappearances of people (Vremya novostei).

- One person killed, three wounded in an incident near Chechnya’s Gekhi village: One woman was killed and three men were wounded in an incident near the village of Gekhi in Chechnya after an armoured personnel carrier collided with a civilian vehicle. As another civilian car started rapidly approaching the accident area, the servicemen took it for a terrorist car and opened fire. The military prosecutor’s office is investigating the case (Vremya novostei, Interfax, NTV, Rossiyskaya gazeta).

26 januari 2004

- De Villepin visited Moscow: On Friday, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov held talks with his visiting French counterpart Dominique de Villepin. The Moscow Times highlights that the French Minister used the visit to call for an end to the war in Chechnya. The daily also quotes Igor Ivanov as saying that “there is no war in the Chechen republic - there is a fight against international terrorism”. Interfax quotes the Russian Minister as saying after the talks that Moscow is still undecided on joining the Kyoto Protocol. “This issue is in the phase of inter-agency deliberation, namely on whether the Protocol meets national interests and what consequences its ratification may have for the pace of the country’s economic development”, Ivanov said (Interfax, Moscow Times).

- Human Rights activist murdered in Chechnya: The Moscow Times reports that the mutilated body of human rights activist Aslan Davletukaev, of the Society of Russian-Chechen Friendship, was found near the Chechen city of Gudermes. According to the daily, Davletukaev was kidnapped on 10 January from his home by about 50 Russian soldiers who arrived in three armoured vehicles (The Moscow Times).

27 januari 2004

- Minister: refugees will not be forced to return to Chechnya: Yesterday Federal Minister for Chechnya Stanislav Ilyasov assured visiting UN Undersecretary General Jan Egeland that refugees would not be forced to return to Chechnya. According to Ilyasov, 49,000 Chechen refugees are currently living in Ingushetia, about 5,000 of them in tent camps. Interfax also quotes Ilyasov as saying that in early February, Moscow will host a conference for representatives of all humanitarian organisations operating in the North Caucasus (Interfax, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times).

28 januari 2004

- Colin Powell concludes visit to Moscow: Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell concluded his visit to Moscow by meeting with Russian businessmen, answering questions from listeners of Ekho Moskvy Radio and meeting with representatives of the public. The media focus on Powell’s words that new U.S. bases in Europe will not threaten Russia and the amount of U.S. military personnel in Europe will be reduced. Powell also announced Washington’s plans of rendering financial assistance to Russia in the resettlement of the personnel of Russian military bases to be withdrawn from Georgia. The U.S. Secretary of State said that Chechnya was Russia’s internal affair, but urged the Russian government to observe human rights in the republic. He added that Washington views the recent Chechen presidential election as a step forward. Gazeta highlights that while meeting with Powell, Russian businessmen never mentioned the word “Yukos” while demonstrating their interest in the dollar rate (All media).

- UN Undersecretary General: UN Mission in Ingushetia to move to Grozny: Yesterday UN Undersecretary General Jan Egeland paid a brief visit to Grozny. The media quote Egeland as saying that the UN would hold Russia to its promise not to force or pressure any refugee return. Kommersant reports that the main result of the visit was a decision to move the UN mission from Ingushetia to Grozny on 1 March. The daily recalls that by that date, the Chechen authorities plan to return residents from Ingush refugee tent camps to Chechnya (Kommersant, The Moscow Times).

- Several media outlets report on the presentation of the agenda for the Irish Presidency in the EU held in the Delegation of the European Commission to Russia. The Moscow Times notes that the document pledges to tackle problems associated with the acceding countries, but makes no mention of democracy and human rights, including the war in Chechnya. According to Izvestia, the message of the document” is - “do not create additional problems either for yourself, or for enlarging Europe, particularly within the context of a revision of relations with Russia, launched by the European Commission”.

- Nezavisimaya gazeta publishes an interview with Justin Harman, the Irish ambassador to Russia. The interview is entitled “European Union stands for justice in relations to businessmen”. The interview focuses on the priorities of the Irish Presidency in the EU, the consequences of EU enlargement for Russia, the prospects of a visa-free regime between Russia and the EU, as well as on the EU position with regard to Chechnya.

29 januari 2004

- Reshuffling in the Office of the Prosecutor General: Kommersant reports that Sergey Fridinsky, the former Deputy Prosecutor General for the Southern Federal District, will replace Deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kholmogorov, who has reached the retirement age. Chechen Prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko is likely to be appointed Deputy Prosecutor General for the Southern Federal District (Kommersant).

- Zakayev’s visit to Germany may trigger a “big political scandal”: Several media outlets report that Chechen separatist envoy Akhmet Zakayev, who still faces a number of charges and remains on the international wanted list, is visiting Germany at the invitation of Bundestag’s Deputy Chairman Marcus Merkel. The government mouthpiece Rossiyskaya gazeta comments in a front-page article that the visit may trigger a “big political scandal between Russia and Germany” (NTV, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Interfax, Kommersant).

- Putin meets with Kadyrov; 35 billion roubles allocated for developing Chechnya in 2004: (i) At a meeting in Moscow yesterday, President Putin urged Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov to do his utmost to prevent abuses during the payment of compensation for lost housing. Kadyrov is quoted as saying that he had personally checked the lists of applicants and found that 40-50% of the applications were groundless (Interfax). (ii) Interfax quotes Federal Minister for Chechnya Stanislav Ilyasov as saying that 35 billion roubles will be allocated for the development of the Chechen Republic in 2004. He added that 30 billion roubles were allocated for these purposes in 2003 (Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vedomosti).

30 januari 2004

- Presidential aide: Zakayev’s stay in Germany calls Interpol’s role into question: Today’s media continue to comment on the stay of wanted Chechen separatist envoy Akhmet Zakayev in Germany. Interfax quotes presidential aide Sergey Yastrzhembsky as saying that this situation “calls into question the necessity of Interpol”. Nezavisimaya gazeta comments in a front-page article entitled “Zakayev took Reichstag” that if the visit of Zakayev were a “burden” for the federal government of Germany, it could have prevented the visit. The daily also quotes a Russian Foreign Ministry source as saying that Moscow is unlikely to officially react to the visit in order not to be caught in the “trap”. Nezavisimaya gazeta has also published an interview with Zakayev entitled “I coordinated my visit with Maskhadov” (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

- UN Undersecretary General: UN not to open office in Grozny: Interfax quotes UN Undersecretary General Jan Egeland as saying the UN would not open an office in Grozny for security reasons. “The release of the head of the Medecins sans Frontiers mission who was taken hostage in Dagestan 18 months ago, would show that the situation in Chechnya has improved and that a permanent UN presence in Chechnya could be considered”, he noted (Interfax, The Moscow Times).

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