5 mei 2003
- Chechen administration to offer cash rewards for information on rebels: The Chechen administration is setting up a special fund that will offer cash rewards for information about Chechen rebels or the prevention of rebel attacks. Chechen business leaders and public organizations are being asked to make contributions to the fund. Vremya novostei reports under the headline “Residents of Chechnya offered a new source of income” that “rebels’ heads will be worth from one hundred to several thousand dollars” (Interfax, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times).
- Rostov court to begin hearing of MSF aid worker’s abduction: Today, the Rostov regional court will begin the hearing of the case of Kenneth Gluck, an MSF aid worker, abducted in Chechnya in 2001 (Kommersant).
6 mei 2003
- Former Chechen Interior Minister dies: Former Chechen Interior Minister Tsakayev died of a heart attack and was buried yesterday. His unexpected resignation in April was attributed by media to disagreements with Chechen Administration head Kadyrov Vremya novostei reports that it was under Tsakayev’s leadership that law enforcement agencies of the republic managed to guarantee security during the March constitutional referendum. (All media).
- Sultygov denies rumours about his presidential ambitions: Yesterday presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov denied rumours that he intended to contest presidential elections in Chechnya. Sultygov said that the rumours are being spread by those who want to set Kadyrov against him (Vremya novostei).
- Refugees barred from MSF village: The Moscow Times reports in a front-page article that the authorities do not allow Chechen refugees to live in new basic housing constructed by MSF with EU funding in Ingushetia (The Moscow Times).
8 mei 2003
- State Council to be formed in Chechnya: Media quote Chechen Administration head Kadyrov as saying that a State Council of the Chechen Republic will be formed by the end of May. Kommersant notes that the mission of the Council is to prepare the upcoming elections in Chechnya. Since half of the Council will be made up by direct subordinates of Kadyrov, “it is easy to guess whom they will try to help” (Kommersant, Interfax, Vremya novostei).
12 mei 2003
- Bomb blast in Grozny kills one, injures two policemen: One policeman was killed and another two were injured in an explosion in the centre of Grozny on 9 May. The bomb was planted in the ruins of a building near the stadium where the Victory Day parade was to be held. Vremya novostei notes that Chechen officials assessed the incident in different ways. The Chechen Interior Ministry commented that rebels managed to disrupt the Victory Day festivities. Chechen Administration head Kadyrov said that rebels did not reach their goal and festivities continued in all districts of Grozny (Vremya novostei, Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kommersant).
- 250 missing in Chechnya this year: The Moscow Times quotes deputy Chechen Prime Minister Khamidov as saying that nearly 250 people have gone missing in Chechnya since January. Khamidov said that federal troops were to blame in some cases but not all noting that many people are kidnapped by rebels (The Moscow Times).
13 mei 2003
- Terrorist act in Chechnya claims 47 lives: All media report about a major terrorist attack in Chechnya claiming 47 lives and leaving 197 people injured. This data is not final, as the debris on the site has not been cleared. A truck loaded with explosives blew up yesterday morning outside a government compound in Northern Chechnya, also hitting the nearby apartment houses where whole families were killed. President Putin called the attack an attempt to stop the process of political settlement in the republic. Chechen Administration head Kadyrov said that separatist leader Maskhadov was behind the terrorist attack. A three-day mourning was declared in the republic (All media).
- Working group on power division between federal centre and Chechnya to be set up: Yesterday President Putin ordered to set up a working group for drafting an agreement on the division of powers between the federal authorities and Chechnya. The group is to submit proposals on the draft agreement before 1 October 2003 (Interfax, RIAN).
- MSF-constructed houses for refugees still empty: The Moscow Times reports that 18 houses constructed by the MSF for Chechen refugees living in Ingushetia are standing empty due to alleged violations of building regulations. The daily quotes MSF officials as saying that if the refugee camps are closed thousands of refugees will be forced back into a conflict zone in violation of the Geneva Convention on human rights (The Moscow Times).
- Budanov to undergo another examination: Yesterday the Rostov-on-Don military court ordered colonel Budanov accused of murdering a Chechen girl to undergo another psychological examination, saying that previous five tests failed to determine whether he was insane at the time of the murder (Izvestia, The Moscow Times, Kommersant, Gazeta, Vremya novostei).
14 mei 2003
- Death toll of terrorist act in Chechnya reaches 59: The death toll from yesterday’s terrorist attack in the Chechen village of Znamenskoye has reached 59 people. Media reports about the number of injured range from 197 (Kommersant) to 300 people (The Moscow Times). Vremya novostei and Kommersant report that investigators have already determined suspects in the crime (All media).
- Terrorist acts in Chechnya, Saudi Arabia similar: Russian officials and media point to the similarity of the recent terrorist acts in Chechnya and Saudi Arabia. President Putin is quoted as saying that “the handwriting of the terrorist acts in Chechnya and Saudi Arabia is absolutely the same, and the consequences are absolutely comparable”. Interfax quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko as saying that those crimes “are links in the same chain””. Kommersant comments in a front-page article entitled “Arabs suspected in the organization of the Chechen terrorist act” that those statements “are based not only on political interests but also on real facts revealed during the investigation of the terrorist act in Znamenskoye” (All media).
- Powell arrives in Moscow: Last night U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Moscow for a two-day visit. Vremya novostei comments in a front-page article entitled “Visit against an explosive background” that the recent terrorist acts in Chechnya and Saudi Arabia “may help Moscow and Washington to forget about tactical differences, which appeared due to the Iraqi crisis, and to concentrate on strategic cooperation in the fight against terrorism”. Powell will meet with Putin today (Vremya novostei, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya MN).
15 mei 2003
- New terrorist act in Chechnya targeted at Kadyrov: 16 people were killed and about 100 were wounded in a new terrorist act in the Chechen village Iliskhan-Yurt yesterday. The terrorist act was carried out during a religious festival by two female suicide bombers and was targeted at head of Chechen Administration Kadyrov. Kadyrov was not injured in the bomb blast. Media quote Deputy Prosecutor General Fridinsky as saying that Chechen terrorists are “working off” one million dollars that they received from abroad. Kommersant reports that according to the FSB, the two recent terrorist acts in Chechnya were organized by Shamil Basayev and Abu Al-Valid connected to Al-Qaida (All media).
- Powell’s visit to Moscow: Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State Powell met with President Putin to prepare the U.S.-Russian summit of 1 June. Kommersant notes that though the formal aim of Powell’s visit was to prepare the upcoming summit, the real goal was to restore the Russian-American relations spoilt during the Iraqi crisis. The daily believes that Russia has made its step towards the U.S. by ratifying the SOR treaty. According to Kommersant, Moscow is also prepared for compromise on the U.S.-submitted resolution lifting economic sanctions from Iraq. Vremya MN believes that it is not clear whether the two sides have really reached any compromise on the issue. Nezavisimaya gazeta describes Powell’s words about the link between the terrorist acts in Chechnya and Saudi Arabia as a “reciprocal pleasant step of the American side”. According to Interfax, meeting with Powell, Putin expressed gratitude for “the clear and firm statement” (All media).
16 mei 2003
- Putin submits draft law on amnesty to Duma: Yesterday President Putin submitted to the Duma a draft law proclaiming amnesty in connection with the adoption of the Chechen Constitution. Putin’s letter addressed to Duma Chairman Seleznyov reads that the amnesty shall be applied to persons “who ceased being members of illegal armed formations and who gave up resistance and voluntarily surrendered weapons and military hardware by August 2003”. Kommersant reports about the issue in an article entitled “Putin is ready to pardon rebels who did not kill”. Vremya novostei quotes head of Duma’s Legislation Committee Krasheninnikov as saying that the Duma will begin the consideration of the draft law next week (All media).
- Supreme court allows Muslim women to wear chador on passport photos: Yesterday the Supreme Court decided to allow Muslim women to wear chador, traditional headwear, on passport photos. However, according to Kommersant, the Interior Ministry believes that this might complicate the identification process; therefore the decision might be appealed at the Supreme Court Board. Nezavisimaya gazeta qualifies the Supreme Court decision as a political concession following the recent terrorist acts in Chechnya. Izvestia recalls in a front-page article that the court ruling contradicts the opinion of President Putin publicly voiced during his visit to Kazan last year (All media).
- Investigation of Wednesday terrorist act in Chechnya: Media report that investigators of Wednesday’s suicide bombing in Chechnya’s Gudermes district have obtained a video footage of the crime showing the moment when the explosive device went off. It is also reported that the suicide bomber who committed the crime belonged to a brigade of 36 female kamikaze fighters trained by Basayev (All media).
19 mei 2003
- Media comment on Putin’s state-of-the nation address: On 16 May, President Putin delivered an hour-long state-of-the nation address to the Federal Assembly. According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, the necessity of the country’s consolidation with the objective to achieve a great power status was the main message of the address. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that Putin’s speech looked like an elections programme. Commenting on political issues raised by the President in the address, Kommersant qualifies as unexpected the inclusion of armed forces modernization into the three major tasks of the upcoming decade, together with GDP doubling and eliminating poverty. According to the daily, three major political conclusions should be drawn: military conscription will not be abandoned, Kadyrov will get support of the Kremlin at the upcoming presidential elections in Chechnya, and centrists will win December elections to the Duma. Weekly TV programme Vesti nedeli comments that for the first time the address was critical about leftist forces. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that most comments of politicians on Putin’s address concern the idea of a government based on parliamentary majority. Rossiyskaya gazeta reports that the international part of the address was brief stressing that the President called Europe Russia’s historic choice without even mentioning America but for pointing to “certain countries with excessive geopolitical ambitions”. Rossiyskaya gazeta publishes the full text of Putin’s address. The titles of articles about the address include: “From cleaning out old problems – to a new dream” (Izvestia); “Unattainable goals” (Vedomosti); “President spoke as a candidate”(Nezavisimaya gazeta); “Almost all present liked Vladimir Putin”(Kommersant) (Also see Economic headlines).
- Putin meets with Kadyrov: Kommersant reports in an article entitled “Chechen police will put an end to terrorism” that meeting with President Putin last Saturday, Chechen Administration head Kadyrov called for a bigger role of the Chechen Interior Ministry in the anti-rebel fight. The daily believes that Putin is likely to meet the request of the Chechen leader and quotes Federal Minister for Chechnya Ilyasov as saying that with the upgrading of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s status, conditions will be created for the withdrawal from Chechnya by 2004 of all military units but for those stationed on a permanent basis. The Moscow Times informs that at the meeting, President Putin promised to provide quick compensation to those affected by the two suicide attacks last week in Chechnya (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times).
- Duma to consider ratification of border treaty with Lithuania, amnesty in Chechnya on 21 May: (i) On 21 May, the State Duma will consider the ratification of a border treaty with Lithuania. Interfax quotes Communist leader Zyuganov as saying that the ratification must be postponed until “a comprehensive and legally binding treaty on the freedom of transit of Russian passengers and cargo including military supplies to the Kaliningrad region” is signed (Interfax, Kommersant). (ii) On 21 May, the State Duma will consider a resolution on declaring amnesty in Chechnya. According to Interfax, the draft has good chances to be approved by the Duma. Rossiyskaya gazeta notes that Duma’s Committee on Legislation will recommend the adoption of the document in three readings simultaneously (Rossiyskaya gazeta, Interfax).
- Georgian Supreme Court refuses to extradite three Chechens to Russia: Last Friday, the Georgian Supreme Court refused to extradite to Russia three Chechens detained together with ten other rebels at the Russian-Georgian border last summer. Five have already been extradited to Russia, while two others turned out to be Georgian citizens. Interfax quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko as saying that Friday’s “verdict runs counter to international law and to the agreements reached by the Russian and Georgian presidents” (Interfax, The Moscow Times, Gazeta).
20 mei 2003
- Russia, Malaysia initial a $900 million military contract: All media report that yesterday Russia and Malaysia initialled a $900 million contract for the delivery of 18 Russian Su-30MKM fighters. Front-page headlines read: “Russian Su-30 ‘hit’ American F-18 in the Malaysian sky” (Izvestia), “Russian jets win new space” (Vremya MN); “Russia returns to Asian arms markets” (Vremya novostei). Izvestia notes that “Malaysia preferred Russia to Washington and now ranks third in the region after China and India for the volume of Russian military planes purchases”. Nezavisimaya gazeta takes a critical look at the contract questioning the advisability of selling advanced military armaments to Malaysia where a number of Chechen rebels have found refuge. The daily also recalls the 1994 deal with Malaysia when jets were paid for in part with palm oil. According to the paper, Russian arms producers lose up to 50% of the price of contracts due to such barter deals (All media).
- Basayev takes credit for suicide bombings: The Moscow Times reports that Chechen warlord Basayev took credit for last week’s suicide bombings in Chechnya claiming the lives of at least 77 people (The Moscow Times).
- Chechen regional police head killed: Shakhid Muguyev, chief of police in Chechnya’s Vedeno district, was killed in a clash by automatic weapons fire. Muguyev had been on the job only for two months (Kommersant, The Moscow Times, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
21 mei 2003
- Duma to consider amnesty in Chechnya today: All media report that the State Duma will consider today the Kremlin-drafted resolution on amnesty in Chechnya in three readings at once. Gazeta notes that the Communist faction will protest against such a hasty consideration of the document and is likely to vote against it. However, according to the daily, even without Communists’ votes the Duma will easily pass the resolution. Vremya novostei quotes deputy head of Chechen Administration Dzhabrailov as saying that several hundred people will be amnestied. According to the daily, the amnesty will concern both Chechen rebels and federal military servicemen (All media).
- The Moscow Times reports in an article entitled “EU sources warn of discord ahead of St Petersburg talks” (Reuters report) that diplomatic disagreements, including the issue of Chechnya, threaten to spoil the EU-Russia summit next week.
22 mei 2003
- Duma adopts decree on amnesty in Chechnya in first reading: Yesterday the State Duma gave preliminary approval to the Kremlin-drafted resolution on amnesty in Chechnya. The decree was adopted with the record 354 votes. The second reading is scheduled for early June. Kommersant reports that the Kremlin’s representative in the Duma Kotenkov proposed amending the decree during the second reading to extend the possibility to make use of the amnesty by one month – till 1 September 2003. Official comments on the proposed amnesty, including those by Nationalities Minister Zorin quoted by Interfax, portray it as a crucial element in the post-conflict settlement. But critics, including Duma deputy Arbatov quoted by Kommersant, say amnesty will have little effect other than to forgive robbers and thieves (All media).
- New head of Chechen special police force appointed: Kommersant reports that yesterday Ruslan Alkhanov, head of bodyguards of Chechen Administration head Kadyrov, was appointed commander of Chechen special police force. According to the daily, this might mean that one of the most efficient Chechen police units will become fully subordinated to Kadyrov (Kommersant).
26 mei 2003
- Foreign Ministry critical of “Italy’s campaign for Chechnya”: On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement criticising “some Italian political figures” without naming anyone of trying to start an anti-Russian campaign for Chechnya”. According to the statement, Moscow hopes that Italian political leaders “will abstain from thoughtless steps that can hamper the fight against terrorism and have a negative effect on Russian-Italian relations” (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
27 mei 2003
- Major terrorist act prevented in North Ossetia: Two Kamaz trucks stopped on the border of Ingushetia and North Ossetia yesterday turned out to be filled with explosives similar to the ones that destroyed the Chechen government complex last year. The trucks were blown up on site. According to Interfax, the explosion formed a crater similar to the one left by the recent terrorist attack in Znamenskoye (All media).
29 mei 2003
- Putin meets with Chechen officials: Yesterday President Putin met with top Chechen officials, including Chechen Administration head Kadyrov, Chechen Prime Minister Popov and federal Minister for Chechnya Ilyasov, to begin laying the groundwork for dividing powers between the federal centre and a future Chechen government. Ilyasov said at the meeting that the payment of compensations for lost housing might begin in Chechnya in September. Izvestia recalls that it was the second time Putin met with Kadyrov in the last two weeks. Vremya novostei comments that Kadyrov has got Putin’s blessing for convening the State Council, ‘a temporary parliament of Chechnya’. Its first meeting will be held on 10 June (Interfax, Kommersant, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei, Izvestia).
- The Moscow Times reports in an article entitled “Differences on Chechnya papered over” (Reuters report) that Russia and the EU have smoothed their differences over Chechnya ahead of their Summit in St Petersburg. The paper quotes an EU official as saying that “there was a 75 percent chance for a final communiqué”.
30 mei 2003
- Government gives financial aid to victims of terrorist attacks in Chechnya: Interfax reports that yesterday the Russian government made a decision to give 100,000 roubles (about €2,857) for each family member killed in the recent terrorist attacks in Chechnya. Those injured in the blasts will also receive compensations in the amount of 15,000-50,000 roubles (about €430-1,428) (Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- Moskovsky komsomolets publishes an interview with Head of the EC Delegation in Russia Richard Wright under the headline “Will 45 Presidents make another window to Europe in St Petersburg?”. The interview carries comments on the prospects of visa-free travel, Kyoto Protocol ratification by Russia, the MNEPR programme, a settlement of the Chechen conflict and other issues.