Persoverzicht Tsjetsjenië - September 2003

1 september 2003

- Interior Ministry to take over command of operation in Chechnya: In accordance with Putin’s instructions, from 1 September, the Interior Ministry will take over operational command from the FSB in Chechnya. The Interior Ministry’s General Baranov was appointed commander of the headquarters of the federal forces in the North Caucasus and began fulfilling his duties in the Khankala military base (Kommersant, Interfax).

- Chechen amnesty expires today: An amnesty in Chechnya, declared by the State Duma in June, expires today. Chechen Administration head Kadyrov and Chief Chechen Prosecutor Kravchenko called for a prolongation of the amnesty. It is expected that the Duma will consider the issue next week (Kommersant, Interfax, The Moscow Times).

2 september 2003

- Only 171 rebels and 226 servicemen amnestied in Chechnya: Yesterday expired the deadline for the Chechen amnesty declared by the State Duma in June. Media note that the amnesty got a larger response from federal soldiers than from rebels. According to Deputy Prosecutor General Fridinsky, about 400 people benefited from the amnesty including 170 rebels who left their units and 226 servicemen, interior officials and civilians. Chechen Administration head Kadyrov praised the results of the amnesty noting that dozens of people were able to return to peaceful life. Kommersant comments in a front-page article entitled “Chechnya not forgiven” that the amnesty results were “below all expectations”. The daily links the failure of the amnesty to the absence of security guarantees for amnestied rebels. According to Duma deputy Aslakhanov quoted by Kommersant, the amnesty would have been more successful if it had been extended to include Chechen rebels living outside Chechnya (All media).

- Return of Chechen refugees: (i) Interfax reports that 20,000 refugees from Chechnya decided to take permanent residence in Ingushetia. Meanwhile, over 3,000 refugees returned to Chechnya from Ingushetia over the past month (Interfax). (ii) Following talks with Georgian President Shevarnadze, Federal Minister for Chechnya Ilyasov said yesterday that Georgia and Russia are prepared to begin the return of Chechen refugees from the Pankisi Gorge (Georgia) to Chechnya. According to Ilyasov, Shevarnadze promised full support in facilitating the return of refugees to Chechnya (Interfax).

3 september 2003

- Moscow businessman withdraws from Chechen elections: Yesterday Moscow businessman Dzhabrailov said that he would not participate in the Chechen presidential elections. According to Kommersant, Dzhabrailov did not present any details specifying the reason for his decision. However, he denied allegations that he was pressured by the Kremlin saying that he could swear on the Koran that this was not the case. This leaves ten candidates to contest the election (Kommersant, Interfax, Vremya novostei, Izvestia).

4 september 2003

- Terrorist act on train kills 4, injures 79 people: Most dailies carry front-page articles reporting that four people were killed and 79 injured as a result of a bomb explosion on a suburban train outside Kislovodsk (Stavropol region, near Chechnya). 17 of those injured are in a critical condition. The majority of victims are students from Kislovodsk. Kommersant believes that the bombing could be linked to the visit of President Putin to the Southern Federal District or that it is a reaction to a current court hearing in Stavropol against a criminal grouping known as a ‘Nogaisky battalion’. Gazeta notes that yesterday’s attack may be the beginning of a terrorist war on Russian railway roads stressing that it is impossible to ensure permanent control over thousands of kilometres of Russian railway tracks. Novye izvestia concludes that “a wave of terror is gaining momentum” and “the country anticipates a new tragedy” (All media).

- Chechen Press Minister dismissed: Yesterday Chechen Press Minister Gantamirov was dismissed due to the merger of his Ministry with the Ministry on Nationalities. Kommersant recalls that Gantamirov refused to support Chechen Administration head Kadyrov in the upcoming Chechen presidential elections, and therefore his dismissal was quite predictable (Kommersant, Interfax).

5 september 2003

- Russia may send peacekeepers to Iraq: Defence Minister Ivanov said yesterday that he did not rule out sending a Russian peacekeeping unit to Iraq under the UN auspices. He noted that this would be possible if a UN SC resolution on this issue is passed unanimously and is properly worded. Izvestia comments that being a permanent member of the UN SC, Russia cannot reject a proposal to take part in a peacekeeping mission. In the paper’s view, Russia’s participation will not be wide-scale but it will show to the whole world that Russia is together with the anti-terrorist coalition. The daily concludes that it would also be natural to expect the participation of an American special forces’ unit in operations against “Jihad militants” in Chechnya. The article is entitled “We go to Iraq. And they go to Chechnya?” (All media).

- Kadyrov: over 2,000 people missing in Chechnya: Interfax quotes Chechen Administration head Kadyrov as saying that over 2,000 Chechen residents have gone missing over the past four years. He also recalled that Chechen authorities have asked the Russian Internal and Defence Ministries to set up a commission in charge of organising searches for the missing people (Interfax).

8 september 2003

- Grozny TV and radio company taken over by Kadyrov’s supporters: After the dismissal of Chechen Press Minister Gantamirov, the Grozny radio and TV company created by him was surrounded by armed security forces. This appears to be the start of a takeover of the company by supporters of the Chechen Administration head Kadyrov (Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

9 september 2003

- Chechen candidate not to withdraw from presidential race despite pressure: Chechen presidential candidate Saidullayev, who is far ahead of Chechen Adminstration head Kadyrov in the opinion polls, said that Kadyrov, with the help of the Chechen police force headed by his son, is using intimidation and violence against other presidential candidates. Saidullayev, however, stressed that he would not withdraw from the race, as it would be a betrayal of his supporters (Interfax, The Moscow Times).

- Hearing of Zakayev’s extradition case resumed: All media report that yesterday a London court resumed the hearing of Russia’s request for the extradition of Chechen emissary Zakayev. Dushuyev, a key witness in the case, said that he was forced to sign a statement accusing Zakayev, when he was questioned yesterday. Nezavisimaya gazeta quotes Deputy Prosecutor General Fridinsky as saying that “Zakayev’s defence lawyers paid Dushuyev for giving up his earlier testimony” (All media).

10 september 2003

- Chechen authorities disagree with report on landmine victims: Interfax reports that Chechen officials have questioned the information provided by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The report puts the number of people killed or injured by landmine explosions in Chechnya last year at 5,695. Interfax quotes Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Dakayev as saying that this data is “extremely exaggerated”. He stressed that the problem is very acute, “but providing exaggerated figures will not help to resolve it”. However, no official numbers of landmine victims in Chechnya were presented (Interfax, The Moscow Times).

- Arab mercenaries’ leader killed in Chechnya?: Kommersant carries a front-page article reporting about the (unconfirmed) death of Abu Al-Valid, a leader of Arab mercenaries in Chechnya and an organiser of the 1999 apartment house bombings in Moscow. The news comes exactly four years after the first bombing. According to the daily, Abu Al-Valid might have been killed in a recent fighting in a mountainous district of Chechnya (Kommersant).

11 september 2003

- Chechen presidential elections: (i) Presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov emphasized that Chechen refugees living in Ingushetia should be given a chance to vote in the 5 October presidential election in Chechnya, adding that polling stations may be opened for them in Ingushetia, as they were during the March constitutional referendum. However, Deputy Chairman of the Chechen Elections Commission Arsakhanov said that it was still unclear whether refugees would take part in the election. (ii) Referring to the Head of the Chechen Elections Commission, media report that Chechnya received 57 mln roubles from the federal budget for the election. (Interfax, RIAN, MT)

12 september 2003

- Outcome of Chechen elections already decided: (i) Yesterday State Duma deputy Aslakhanov, a major rival of Chechen Administration head Kadyrov in the upcoming Chechen elections, withdrew from the presidential race, as Putin offered him to become his aide to deal with Southern Russia. Kommersant recalls Aslakhanov’s earlier statement that “only a bullet” could prevent him from taking part in the Chechen elections. A front-page article in Nezavisimaya gazeta is entitled “Only the Kremlin is stronger than a bullet”. (ii) Yesterday the Chechen Supreme Court annulled the registration of businessman Saidullayev, the other major rival of Kadyrov. The court found that more than 40% of the signatures in his support were forged. Earlier the Chechen Election Commission had put this figure at 2.5%. Kommersant comments in a front-page article that the outcome of the Chechen elections was determined yesterday. Vremya novostei notes in a front-page article entitled “All alone” that there will be no competition in the Chechen presidential elections. Novye izvestia reports about the issue in an article entitled “Sweep of competitors” (All media).

- Putin meets with Kadyrov: Yesterday in Sochi President Putin held a working meeting with Chechen Administration head Kadyrov to discuss the payment of compensations to Chechen residents for lost housing. Kommersant notes that this meeting took place against the background of a scandal in the St Petersburg gubernatorial elections related to the TV broadcasting of Putin’s meeting with gubernatorial candidate Matviyenko. The daily comments that yesterday’s meeting of Putin with Kadyrov and the appointment of Aslakhanov as presidential aide are proof of the Kremlin’s “direct involvement” in determining the outcome of the Chechen elections (Kommersant, Interfax).

- Pamfilova on Chechen elections: Head of presidential human rights commission Pamfilova said yesterday that the so-called ‘Kadyrov guard’, headed by his son and numbering several thousand, should be moved to the barracks for the election period. In her opinion, “either the federal forces or the local police should protect polling stations”. Pamfilova also voiced regret over the recent refusal of renowned Russian human rights activists to send observers to polling stations in Chechnya and called for “doing the best to make the election more or less acceptable” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta).

- So-called “Ichkerian parliament” impeaches Maskhadov: Media report that the so-called “Ichkerian parliament”, which was elected simultaneously with Chechen President Maskhadov in 1997, decided to impeach Maskhadov. Presidential aide Yastrzhembsky is quoted as saying that this decision will have a positive effect on the situation in Chechnya and will promote the extradition of Maskhadov’s emissary Zakayev from Britain. Kommersant recalls that previously the Kremlin refused to recognize the legitimacy of both Maskhadov and the “Ichkerian parliament” (Kommersant, Interfax).

15 september 2003

- So-called “Ichkerian parliament” impeaches Maskhadov: Media report that the so-called “Ichkerian parliament”, which was elected simultaneously with Chechen President Maskhadov in 1997, decided to impeach Maskhadov. Presidential aide Yastrzhembsky is quoted as saying that this decision will have a positive effect on the situation in Chechnya and will promote the extradition of Maskhadov’s emissary Zakayev from Britain. Kommersant recalls that previously the Kremlin refused to recognize the legitimacy of both Maskhadov and the “Ichkerian parliament” (Kommersant, Interfax).

16 september 2003

- Suicide bombing in Ingushetia claims two lives, at least 25 people are wounded: Yesterday morning a GAZ truck with explosives blew up outside the recently built headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Ingush capital killing at least two people and injuring at least 25. Deputy head of the FSB department for Chechnya Safonov was injured in the blast. Kommersant comments that it was the first suicide bombing to occur on the territory of Ingushetia. Vremya novostei notes that unlike in the previous terrorist attacks, top Russian and Ingush officials kept silent and provided no comment on the attack. In the paper’s view, the federal authorities did not want to draw additional attention to the impotence of the security services in the fight against terrorists (All media).

- Human rights group not to send observers to Chechen election: The Moscow Times reports that the respected Moscow Helsinki human rights group will not send observers to monitor the upcoming Chechen presidential election. The group said that it would be pointless to do so because the authorities have not created any conditions for people to express their free will (The Moscow Times).

17 september 2003

- Kadyrov accused by opponent of violating election campaign rules: Kommersant publishes a front-page article informing that yesterday the Supreme Court of Chechnya received a complaint filed by Chechen presidential candidate Burayev. Burayev demands the cancellation of Kadyrov’s registration as a candidate due to a violation of election campaign rules, namely the broadcasting by the national television of Kadyrov’s meeting with President Putin on 11 September. The Court will consider the complaint today (Kommersant).

18 september 2003

- Chechnya’s Supreme Court rejects lawsuit filed against Kadyrov: Yesterday the Supreme Court of Chechnya rejected a lawsuit filed by Shamil Burayev, a candidate for the Chechen presidency, to exclude Kadyrov from the presidential race due to violations of election campaign rules. Vremya novostei also reports that yesterday’s withdrawal from the presidential race of Said-Celim Tsyev, deputy military commandant of Chechnya, further increased Kadyrov’s chances to win the elections (Kommersant, Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei).

19 september 2003

- MFA criticizes U.S. official remarks on Chechnya elections: Following a critical statement on the Chechnya elections by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Pifer, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a special commentary yesterday, saying that Russia “strongly objected to his attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the upcoming presidential elections in Chechnya”. The MFA underlined that Mr Pifer’s statement “contradicts the real state of affairs in Chechnya and in no way corresponds to the achieved level of Russia-U.S. understanding”. (Interfax, RIAN, Izvestia, www.mid.ru)

22 september 2003

- Putin on U.S. criticism of situation in Chechnya: Also at the meeting with U.S. journalists, Putin criticised a U.S. State Department official’s statement regarding “violations of human rights” by federal forces in Chechnya, suggesting that the U.S. was in no position to criticise anyone else for human rights violations in light of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also underlined that “both terrorist and federal personnel” should be punished if they violated the law. (Interfax, MT)

23 september 2003

- President Putin leaves for New York today: All media report that President Putin will leave for New York today. It is noteworthy, stresses Vremya novostei in an article entitled “European Troika in New York”, that the visit will begin with Putin meeting Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac. According to the daily, Putin’s speech in the UN will focus on the fight against terrorism, the future role of the UN and settlement of regional conflicts. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that “the main surprise for Americans” will be the inclusion of Chechen Administration head Kadyrov into the delegation accompanying President Putin. On Friday, Putin will leave for Camp David to meet with President Bush (All media).

26 september 2003

- Supreme Court upholds removal of Kadyrov’s major rival: Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the Chechen Supreme Court’s ruling cancelling the registration of businessman Saidullayev as a candidate in the Chechen presidential elections. The reason given are irregularities in the collection of signatures for his registration. Vremya novostei comments in a front-page article entitled “Supreme Court chose Kadyrov” that “now six little-known candidates will have to compete with Akhmat Kadyrov, but their chances are so slim that ballot papers could carry only one name instead of seven” (All media).

- Chechen refugees in Ingushetia to take part in election: Interfax quotes head of the Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov as saying that refugees from Chechnya currently residing in Ingushetia will be able to take part in the Chechen presidential election. He noted that polling stations would be opened on the perimeter of the Chechen-Ingush administrative border. The opening of such stations in tent camps might also be possible (Interfax).

- Compensation payments for lost housing begin in Chechnya: Federal Minister for Chechnya Ilyasov said that the compensation payments for lost housing began in Chechnya yesterday. Chechen residents are to receive 300,000 roubles (about €8,800) for destroyed homes and 50,000 for lost property (about €1,470) (Interfax, Kommersant).

29 september 2003

- Putin concludes visit to U.S.: All media report about the results of Putin’s visit to the U.S. The Moscow Times notes that President Putin praised the “real and mutually respectful partnership” between the two countries, but stopped short of offering to help in the U.S. reconstruction of Iraq. In the paper’s view, Bush and Putin did appear to make progress on the dispute over Moscow’s nuclear cooperation with Iran. Kommersant quotes U.S. political analysts as saying that Putin should have given clearer support for the U.S. position on Iraq. The analysts deny that any real progress was reached on the Iran issue, as Putin’s words that Iran should be given “a clear and respectful signal” do not have any diplomatic meaning. Vremya novostei comments that “the U.S. President for the first time clearly and definitely referred to the Chechen issue in the same way as it is understood by the Kremlin”, namely in its terrorism dimension. Izvestia points to the words of both Presidents that Russia and the U.S. are “allies” in combating terror. However, Head of Duma’s International Affairs Committee Rogozin notes in an article published by Izvestia that what Russia expects from America is not “a friendly pat on the shoulder” but real cooperation in the security sphere (All media).

- Kadyrov – “uninvited guest” in Camp David?: Several dailies report about “a diplomatic tiff” over a member of Putin’s delegation to the UN, Head of Chechen Administration Kadyrov. Kadyrov was issued a visa to the UN but the State Department had discouraged him from coming to Washington. Kommersant, however, notes that Kadyrov never planned to go to Camp David and flew from New York to Washington only in order to join Putin on his way back to Moscow (Kommersant, The Moscow Times).

- Putin, Kadyrov discuss Chechnya’s economic recovery: On board the presidential plane to Moscow, returning from the U.S., President Putin and Chechen Administration head Kadyrov discussed Chechnya’s economic recovery and the first stage of the compensation payments to Chechen residents (Interfax).

- Chechen PM poisoned?: All media report that Prime Minister and (during the election campaign Acting President) of Chechnya Popov was hospitalised with severe poisoning after dining in Chechnya’s Gudermes district, where he opened a local gas pipeline. The condition of Popov, who was brought to a Moscow clinic, is characterised as “serious but stable”. According to Interfax, poison residue has been found in Popov’s blood system (All media).

- Anti-Chechen sentiments in Russian regions: Izvestia reports that yesterday a council under the presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov considered the mass violations of civil rights of Chechens in Russia’s Krasnodar and Kabardino-Balkariya regions. According to the daily, anti-Chechen sentiments in those regions are gaining momentum, which resulted in mass beatings of Chechens on 15-17 September. The daily quotes Sultygov as saying that the federal centre will send commissions to the Krasnodar and Kabardino-Balkariya regions to investigate the cases (Izvestia).

30 september 2003

- Did Chechen PM really suffer food poisoning?: Media continue to comment on controversial reports about the alleged food poisoning of Chechen PM Popov. Yesterday Chechen officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Vakhayev, actively denied allegations that Popov was poisoned. Interfax quotes doctors from a Moscow hospital as saying that Popov was diagnosed with toxic food poisoning. It was also reported that the Prime Minister might return to Chechnya today. However, Nezavisimaya gazeta believes that the origin of Popov’s disease is still unclear, and recalls that residue of a poison, capable of destroying the liver, was found in his blood system. According to an Interfax report of this morning, Popov has had a sharp temperature rise and his condition has deteriorated (All media).

- PACE not to send observers to Chechen election; Rogozin criticises PACE: (i) Following the decision of the PACE Bureau not to send observers to the upcoming Chechen presidential election “for security reasons”, PACE rapporteur on Chechnya Gross commented that the real reason was that the election will not be a true expression of the population’s will. Interfax also quotes CoE Secretary General Schwimmer as saying that PACE usually sends observers to federal, not regional elections. (ii) Media report about the highly critical reaction of Duma’s International Affairs Committee chairman Rogozin to the PACE decision. Rogozin said that PACE is a “meaningless organisation” and pledged to push for a major reduction in Russia’s $25 million annual contribution to the CoE (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Ekho Moskvy, Novye izvestia).

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