1 maart 2004
- Russia seizes 2 Qatari athletes; Russian lawyers to defend detained security agents: (i) Russia detained 2 Qatari athletes in Moscow as they travelled via Russia to an Olympic qualifying tournament in Serbia last Thursday, a week after 2 Russian security agents were arrested in Doha on suspicion of involvement in the killing of the exiled Chechen separatist President Yandarbiyev. According to media reports, the Qatari athletes – members of the national wrestling team – had been detained because they carried a large sum of money and “improperly processed” documents. (ii) Russian lawyers arrived in Doha yesterday to provide defence to the two Russian security agents arrested in Qatar. The Russian MFA special envoy Mikhail Bogdanov is quoted as having stressed that “some progress has been made” in the efforts to release the two Russians. (All media)
- Refugee tent camps in Ingushetia to close in March: Referring to the Deputy Head of Chechen Interior Ministry’s migration service Lema Bichuyev, Interfax reports that the remaining refugee tent camps in Ingushetia will be closed in March “due to poor living conditions there”. According to Bichuyev, some 20 to 30 refugees return to Chechnya from Ingushetia every day. (Interfax, Novyie Izvestia)
2 maart 2004
- Chechen warlord Gelayev killed in Daghestan: The media report that the Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev was killed by border guards in the mountains of Daghestan (the Northern Caucasus) last Saturday. In a battle, two border guards also died. The Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky, and the Federal Security Service (FSB) confirmed the killing of Gelayev. (All media)
- Bart refugee camp closed in Ingushetia: According to Chechen official Akhmed Zaurbekov, the Bart refugee camp was officially closed down in the Ingush town of Karabulak yesterday because “the last 14 families left for Chechnya”. He informed that 170 to 180 people leave tent camps in Ingushetia for Chechnya every day and that new provisional shelters for refugees have been opened in Grozny and Achkhoi-Martan. (Interfax, Kommersant)
- Qatar’s intention to free detained Russians not confirmed: (i) The Russian Embassy to Qatar has not confirmed media reports about the Qatari authorities’ intention to free two Russian security agents, who were detained in Doha on suspicion of involvement in the killing of the former Chechen separatist President Yandarbiyev. (ii) Referring to the Belarussian Foreign Ministry, the media report that the two athletes connected to Qatar, who were detained in Moscow, were Belarussian citizens. (Interfax, Kommersant, MT)
3 maart 2004
- Ivanov meets Swedish FM in Moscow; to discuss EU-Russia relations in Madrid: (i) The media report that the situation in the Baltic states and the Chechen issue were discussed at a meeting between the Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds and Acting Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov yesterday in Moscow. Mrs Freivalds is quoted as having emphasised that “human rights are still being violated in Chechnya” and that “the situation in Chechnya remains disturbing”. (ii) I. Ivanov plans to discuss EU-Russia relations and the situation of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states during his visit to Madrid on 3-4 March. (Interfax, RIAN, Vremya novostei)
- Chechen students to protest student’s abduction: Students of the Chechen State University intend to hold a rally in Grozny today to protest the recent kidnapping of a first-year medicine student, who was abducted by unknown individuals in March. (Interfax)
- Rebel group says it staged Moscow metro blast: A Chechen rebel group stated that it conducted the 6 February bombing in the Moscow metro, which killed at least 40 people. (Ekho Moskvy, Kommersant, MT)
4 maart 2004
- Human rights activist says no conditions created for closing refugee camps: (i) The member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre’s council Svetlana Ganushkina stated that that “neither Chechnya nor Ingushetia can offer accommodation for people who are leaving tent camps”, adding that “scores of people will become homeless”. (ii) At a meeting with President Putin yesterday to discuss the return of Chechen refugees from Ingushetia, the Head of Presidential Commission for Human Rights Ella Pamfilova stated that “those who have entered Chechnya are not experiencing any difficulties”. (Interfax)
- Chechen PM not to remain in office: The Chechen PM Anatoly Popov announced yesterday that he would not remain the head of the Chechen Government. He added that he was “seriously considering the possibility” to run for Governor of the Volgograd region, having noted that “the final decision depends on many factors”. According to the Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, several candidates for Chechen PM,including the candidacy of the former Chechen Finance Minister Sergei Abramov, are being currently considered. (Interfax, Gazeta, Kommersant)
- Russian diplomat visits detainees in Qatar: The Head of Consular Section of the Russian Embassy to Qatar visited yesterday in jail the two Russian nationals, who are being held on suspicion of involvement in the 13 February killing of the Chechen separatist President Yandarbiyev in Doha. Acting Defence Minister S. Ivanov is quoted as having emphasised that Moscow “will do all it can, using all its means for the release of the two Russian citizens being held in Qatar”. (Rossia channel, Interfax, RG, Vremya novostei)
9 maart 2004
- Former Chechen separatist DM surrenders: The regional HQs of the counter-terrorism operation in the Northern Caucasus confirmed that the former Chechen separatist Defence Minister Magomed Khambiyev ceased resistance and surrendered to Chechen President Kadyrov’s security service yesterday in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district. According to the chief of Chechen President security service Ramzan Kadyrov, Khambiyev’s deputy Bibulatov also surrendered. Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov stressed that the surrender of Khambiyev, who is considered to be the nearest associate of the Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, “actually means the end of Maskhadov”. He added that he would appeal to Russian law enforcement agencies to amnesty Khambiyev for his voluntary surrender. Kommersant calls Khambiyev’s surrender the most successful operation since the launch of the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya. (All media)
- Head of presidential human rights commission visits refugee camps: The Chairman of Presidential Human Rights Commission Ella Pamfilova, who visited tent camps for refugee in Ingushetia on Saturday, is quoted by Interfax as having opposed “settling deadlines for the process of returning IDPs to Chechnya and dismantling tent camps in Ingushetia”. She pointed out that “it would be impossible to disband the tent camps in one month, during March”, and that tent camps for Chechen refugees could remain in place in Ingushetia for several more months. (Interfax)
- Lord Judd denied Russian visa: Today’s Kommersant reports that the former Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly rapporteur on Chechnya Lord Judd was annulled a Russian visa. The Chairman of Duma International Committee Konstantin Kosachyov is quoted as having stressed that there were no political grounds behind the visa denial.
10 maart 2004
- Chechen rebel leaders on the territory of Russia, Defence Ministry: (i) A Defence Ministry official stated yesterday that Chechen rebel leaders Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev are hiding on the territory of Russia. He noted that “it would be incorrect to say that they are on Chechnya precisely” and added that “the hunt for Maskhadov and Basayev continues”. (ii) The Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov did not comment on reports that Maskhadov’s surrender was being negotiated. (Interfax, RIAN, Ekho Moskvy)
11 maart 2004
- Refugees “voluntarily returning to Chechnya”, Ingush authorities: The Ingush President’s Spokesman Isa Merzhoyev has stated that “the return of refugees living in Ingushetia to Chechnya is completely voluntary” and that the Ingush authorities “are not forcing the process”. (Interfax)
12 maart 2004
- Another Maskhadov’s associate surrenders: (i) The head of the Chechen President’s Security Service Ramzan Kadyrov stated yesterday that Boris Aidamirov, who led the security department of the Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov and Maskhadov’s close associate, surrendered to the police yesterday. (ii) The former Ichkerian/Chechen Defence Minister Magomed Khambiyev denied reports that he had been forced to surrender after the detention of his family members. He added that if the Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov “needs my assistance, I will give support to Kadyrov”. (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Gazeta, Ekho Moskvy, MT)
- Foreign lawyers to defend Russian detainees in Qatar: The media report that lawyers from Russia, Qatar, the U.S. and UK will work on the defence of the two Russian security agents detained in Qatar on suspicion of involvement in the killing of the former Chechen rebel President Yandarbiyev in Doha last month. (RG)
- More refugees to return to Chechnya, Chechen officials: According to Chechen Government officials, about 150 families of refugees plan to return to Chechnya from Sputnik and Satsita tent camps in Ingushetia before the end of this week. (Interfax)
22 maart 2004
- Russian detainees in Qatar confess?: According to media reports, two Russian security agents being held in Qatar on suspicion on involvement in the killing of the former Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Doha last month, have started giving evidence implicating Russia in Yandarbiyev’s assassination. In an interview with Vremya novostei today, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer stated that Washington had provided Qatar with “very insignificant technical assistance” in the arrest of the Russian security agents. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has denied media reports that the Qatari citizens detained in Russia have been transferred to the Russian Foreign Ministry. (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Gazeta)
- Auditing Chamber says former Chechen Government misuses funds: At a meeting to discuss the restoration of Chechnya last Friday, the Russian Auditing Chamber announced that investigations showed former Chechen Government’s misuse of federal funds. The media report that the former Chechen PM Anatoly Popov denied that he was involved in any misuse of funds. (Interfax, Vedomosti, Izvestia, NG, Vremya novostei, Gazeta, MT)
24 maart 2004
- Officers face charges of murdering Chechen civilians: Vremya Novostei has published a front-page article entitled “Following Budanov’s suit”. The article reports on a new hearing launched yesterday in a military court in the North Caucasus. Two military officers, Evgeny Khudyakov and Sergey Arakcheyev, are facing charges of shooting dead three Chechen civilians. The daily comments that “the authorities are keeping the promise not to turn a blind eye to the crimes committed by the military against Chechen civilians” (Vremya novostei, Kommersant, Gazeta).
- Court hearing of attempted suicide bombing begins in Moscow: Yesterday, the Moscow City Court began the hearing of the case of the 24-year-old Chechen woman Zarema Mazhikhoyeva, who is charged with attempting to carry out a suicide bombing in the centre of Moscow last summer (Kommersant, The Moscow Times, Gazeta).
26 maart 2004
- Eight servicemen die in minefield explosion in Chechnya: Eight servicemen died in a minefield explosion last night in the Chechen district capital Shali. The explosion occurred when a truck driven by an officer went beyond the limits of a military unit without permission. The truck hit a minefield at a time when the guards at the checkpoint tried to prevent it from leaving the unit. The officer driving the truck and seven servicemen trying to stop the vehicle were killed. According to Vesti, the incident was triggered by a quarrel between military servicemen (Interfax, Vesti, RIA Novosti).
- Lukin advocates the creation of Ombudsman post in Chechnya: Vladimir Lukin, the human rights envoy of the Russian Federation, suggested that the post of Ombudsman be introduced in Chechnya. In Lukin’s opinion, the Ombudsman could monitor the situation in Chechnya without bias. “Russia and the West do not possess objective information about violations of human rights in Chechnya, as the available information is too politically motivated on the part of both sides” (RIA Novosti).
29 maart 2004
- Putin attends Forum of Peoples of the Caucasus: At the end of last week, President Putin attended the Public Forum of the Peoples of the Caucasus, held in Sochi. All leaders of Russia’s Caucasian regions attended the Forum. Kommersant and Nezavisimaya gazeta highlight the Soviet-style atmosphere of the Forum, where all speakers praised the President and congratulated him on the victory in the recent presidential election. RIA Novosti quotes Putin as saying at the Forum that the peace process in Chechnya has become irreversible, and the general situation in the North Caucasus is improving. According to Interfax, Putin stressed that economic development is key to settling cultural and inter-ethnic problems in southern Russia. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes, however, in an article entitled “There is a long way to appeasement in the South” that so far, Moscow’s actions in the Caucasus have not brought about the desired results. The daily highlights Putin’s words that “it would be a mistake to believe that everything has been done”. According to the paper, the President also admitted that the previous methods of resolving problems in the regions do not work any longer (All media).
30 maart 2004
- Supreme Court upholds Budanov’s sentence: Former Colonel Yury Budanov, who was convicted for killing a Chechen woman and sentenced to 10 years in prison, has lost his appeal in the Supreme Court yesterday (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei).
31 maart 2004
- Chances for release of two Russians detained in Qatar very slim?: Kommersant reports in a front-page article entitled “Complete failure” that, despite the efforts of Russian diplomats to reach agreement with the Qatari authorities on the release of two Russian citizens detained on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Chechen separatist leader Yandarbiyev, the chances of their release are very slim. In the paper’s view, the evidence of their involvement in the crime is too solid (Kommersant).
- Basayev threatens to stage new attacks: Yesterday Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev voiced new threats to stage terrorist attacks across Russia. The media quote Basayev as saying that they “will bomb, blow up, poison, set on fire, stage gas explosions and fires”. According to Gazeta, there is no doubt that Basayev is serious about his threats. Nezavisimaya gazeta highlights that Russian Orthodox churches will become one of Basayev’s targets (Gazeta, The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta).