Persoverzicht Tsjetsjenië - September 2004

1 september 2004

- Putin Sees Al-Qaide in Air Crashes. President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that investigators were looking for a link between al-Qaida and Chechen rebels widely believed to have downed two planes last week. An al-Qaida-linked group has claimed responsibility for the near-simultaneous attacks that killed 90 people, Putin told a news conference after talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac. "This must still be proved by our security forces. But it is a fact that explosions occurred on board two Russian airliners," he said. (Moscow Times)

- Supreme Court upheld bomber’s sentence. The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the 20-year prison sentence of a Chechen woman convicted in an apparently aborted suicide bombing attempt on Tverskaya Ulitsa in downtown Moscow. Zarema Muzhikhoyeva was arrested in July 2003 after her strange behaviour attracted the attention of security guards at a restaurant, and a bomb was found in her bag. A bomb expert was brought in to defuse it, but it went off and killed him. (Interfax, Moscow Times, Gazeta, Kommersant)

- Russian, French, German leaders discuss EU-Russia cooperation. President Vladimir Putin said Russia is seeking broader ties with the European Union in forming four common spaces in the area of the economy, humanitarian affairs, science and security. "This process should take place on the principles of equality and mutual cooperation, taking account of mutual interests," Putin said following talks with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Sochi on Tuesday. During their meeting, the three leaders discussed "absolutely specific issues of Russian-EU cooperation. For instance, we addressed the problem of Kaliningrad transit, veterinary problems and options for cooperation between our consumers and agricultural producers," Putin said. Among other issues, the agenda of the talks included contacts in high technologies, coooperation with the European Space Agency and using the Kourou launch pad for launching Russian rockets, the president said. At a meeting with the leaders of France and Germany, Putin also defended Sunday's election in Chechnya, which was denounced by rights groups as stage-managed and by Washington and the European Union as flawed. (All media)

2 september 2004

- 354 people held hostage at school: Masked attackers with grenades and suicide bomb belts seized a school in North Ossetia (South of Russia) yesterday morning as children, parents and teachers attended festivities celebrating the first day of school. According to the North Ossetian government, 354 people are being held inside a school building. The attackers have put some of the seized children in window holes as a human shield to prevent the storming of the building. The attackers, who number 15-25 people and have apparently penetrated from the Ingush territory, are demanding the withdrawal of federal troops from Chechnya and the release of rebels detained after the June raids on Ingushetia. In Kommersant’s view, the authorities will not meet these demands and will not delay the resolution of the problem by using force. The paper also stresses that the penetration of the attackers from Ingushetia might trigger the renewal of the conflict between North Ossetia and Ingushetia. Kommersant believes that this could be the main aim of the attack, as the conflict renewal will inevitably drag the attention of the federal centre from Chechnya. According to Izvestia, the Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov was among the attackers. Gazeta adds that the hostage takers belong to the rebel group of Magomed Yevloyev who is directly subordinate to Chechen warlord Shamil Balayev. The daily points to the failure of Russian law enforcement agencies to detain Basayev who has been on the federal wanted list since 1995 and seems to be moving freely across neighbouring republics in the North Caucasus. Vremya novostei adds that according to recent public opinion polls, Russians tend to blame the police and the authorities for their failure to guarantee people’s security and no longer react to terrorist attacks by calling to step up combat activities in Chechnya. Some of today’s newspaper titles include: “Lessons of war – rebels started fighting with children” (Vremya novostei); “Grenade launchers look from school windows” (Nezavisimaya gazeta); “School of terror” (Gazeta); “Only scum fight with children” (Moskovsky komsomolets).

- Two Chechen women barred from flight: A KrasAir flight was delayed by two hours in Egypt yesterday after the plane’s crew and passengers refused to fly with two Chechen women on board. The crew became alarmed after the women locked themselves in the toilet after boarding the plane in Sharm El Sheikh. (Gazeta, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Izvestia).

3 september 2004

- Media comment on consequences and reasons of the recent terrorist attacks: (i) Commenting on the reasons for the series of recent terrorist attacks, Rossiyskaya gazeta quotes an analyst’s opinion that the major enemy of Moscow in the Caucasus is no longer Chechen separatists, but a new military and political force linked to the Islamic Terrorist International. However, the liberal politician Irina Khakamada says in an article published by Nezavisimaya gazeta that the absence of progress in the political stabilisation in Chechnya is one of the reasons behind the recent attacks. (ii) Vremya novostei comments that irrespective of the outcome of the hostage crisis, it will have far-going consequences, including the resumption of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict and the Caucasus turning into a total hot spot. An expert quoted by Gazeta shares this forecast saying that it will be impossible to avoid a Big Caucasian War if children fell victim in the hostage crisis. Vedomosti reports that the recent terrorist attacks have resulted in the reduction of the number of foreign tourists coming to Russia by up to 30%.

6 september 2004

- Officials: 10 of the terrorists were foreign: According to Gazeta, Deputy Prosecutor General Sergey Fridinsky put the number of the attackers at 32. He also said that 30 of them have been killed. Kommersant says that 29 terrorists were killed; one was detained, while four bandits seem to have escaped. Izvestia adds that two hostage takers detained by special forces were killed by outraged local residents. The media quote an FSB official as saying that one of the dead terrorists was black, while other nine come from Arab countries. Among the attackers there were also Chechens, Ingush, Kazakhs and Slavs. Izvestia quotes a special forces’ representative, according to whom the terrorist attack was prepared with the help of Al Qaida. Nezavisimaya gazeta reports on the issue in an article entitled “Terrorist International”.

7 september 2004

- Beslan hostage tragedy: Maskhadov, Basayev behind school terror attack – detainee: (i) A detained participant in the hostage-taking in the North Ossetian town of Beslan acknowledged in his testimony broadcast by the Rossiya TV station yesterday that the task to seize a school had been set by Chechen separatist leaders Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev with the purpose to unleash a war across the entire Northern Caucasus. (ii) As of yesterday, the death toll was 338, including 156 children. According to official reports, the bodies of 208 victims have been identified. 565 victims of the tragedy, including 347 children, remain hospitalised. Over 50 victims remain in serious condition. 260 people are still missing. A representative of the Alfa special forces group announced yesterday that 11 servicemen of the Alfa and Vympel special forces groups were killed in the operation in Beslan. (iii) Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Sergey Fridinsky declared yesterday that security agencies did not plan to storm the Beslan school seized by the terrorists. He informed that according to survivors, one of the militants caused an explosion by tripping over some wires, thus setting off bombs. According to Fridinsky, police complicity in the Beslan crisis was not proved. However, North Ossetian FSB chief Valery Andreyev stressed that crooked law enforcement officers assisted the hostage-takers. In the meantime, North Ossetian Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiyev submitted resignation. (All media)

8 september 2004

- No link between Beslan hostage tragedy and situation in Chechnya - Putin: (i) Meeting with a group of foreign journalists and political analysts Monday night at his residence outside Moscow, President Putin underlined that there is no link between the tragic events in Beslan and the situation in Chechnya. He accused the U.S. of undermining Russia’s struggle against terror by meeting with Chechen separatists and rejected calls for a public inquiry into the Beslan school terror attack and dismissed a parliamentary inquiry. Putin compared negotiations between Moscow and Chechen separatists to negotiations between the West and Al-Qaida. (ii) The Presidential Press Service informed yesterday that Putin decided to postpone his visit to Germany later this week due to the Beslan hostage-taking tragedy. (All media)

- Moscow to take steps to have terror suspects extradited, MFA: In a commentary published yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasised Russia’s intention to take a number of steps abroad to have people suspected of links with terrorism extradited. The commentary reads “Russia has presented undeniable facts for securing positive solutions in considering the extradition of Akhmed Zakayev [who has been granted political asylum in the UK] and Ilyas Akhmadov [Chechen separatist emissary currently living in the U.S.]”. (Interfax, www.mid.ru)

9 september 2004

- FSB offers over $10 million for information on Basayev, Maskhadov: The Russian Federal Security Service (the FSB) has offered a reward of up to 300 million roubles (over $10 million) for information that would help in neutralising prominent Chechen separatist leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov. Izvestia (front page) comments that this measure is unlikely to lead to the desired results, as the people who are informed about the whereabouts of Basayev and Maskhadov are wanted themselves and will not cooperate with the FSB. Gazeta (front page) stresses that the proposed reward is high even according to international standards and recalls that the U.S. authorities have offered $50 million for information about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Vremya novostei (front page) adds that the FSB has set an absolute national record by offering such a high reward (All media).

- FM Lavrov describes Boucher’s remark as inappropriate: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has described as inappropriate a remark by U.S. Department of State spokesman Richard Boucher that the American authorities “may or may not” have more meetings with Chechen figures having “different points of view about Chechnya”. Interfax quotes Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko as saying that no contacts between Washington and Chechen separatists were acceptable. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta (front page), Washington has sent “a double signal” to Russia: “on the one hand, the U.S. shares the official version of the Russian authorities that an act of international terrorism took place in Beslan; on the other hand, Washington moves towards pressure on the issue of a political settlement in Chechnya”. Kommersant (front page) emphasises that Moscow has refrained from harsher criticism of Boucher’s statement, as a serious quarrel with the U.S. is not part of the Kremlin’s plans. Vremya novostei publishes a lengthy interview with Sergey Lavrov entitled “Facing a terrorist threat, special services should open up to each other” (Interfax, Kommersant, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

10 september 2004

- Poll reveals attitudes towards authorities’ actions during the hostage crisis: Kommersant presents a comparatove analysis of public attitudes towards the authorities’ actions during the Beslan tragedy and in the days of the Nord Ost hostage seizure two years ago, conducted by the reputable polling agency of Yury Levada. Although the recent poll was taken only in Moscow, whose residents tend to be more critical than in the rest of Russia, the data are comparable, says the daily. According to the paper, the number of those positively assessing President Putin’s actions dropped from 85% in 2002 to 59% in September 2004; the number of people evaluating positively the actions of law enforcement agencies fell from 82% to 52%. Vedomosti (front page) adds that, despite decreased confidence in law enforcement agencies, more people think that tough actions against extremists in Chechnya are the best way of enhancing public security: “a prompt and decisive operation to put an end to rebels in Chechnya” currently enjoys support of 42% compared to 28% of the respondents in 2002 (Kommersant, Vedomosti).

- Putin, Schroeder issue statement on anti-terror measures: President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schrieder issued a joint statement that sets out specific measures against international terrorism, reports Interfax. Putin’s spokesman Alexey Gromov is quoted as saying that “this document was planned to be approved in the course of interstate Russian-German consultations at the highest level on a date that had been postponed for understandable reasons”. Vremya novostei notes in an article entitled “Dialogue without Putin and Schroeder” that, although Putin’s visit to Germany was postponed, a session of the so-called “St Petersburg dialogue” took place in Hamburg with the participation of Mikhail Gorbachev and Putin’s aides Viktor Ivanov and Sergey Yastrzhembsky. The paper notes that Viktor Ivanov has reproached the West for using double standards when the issue of the fight against terrorism in Chechnya is raised. Nezavisimaya gazeta publishes a front-page interview with German Ambassador to Russia Hans Friedrich von Ploetz. The interview is entitled “Terror is a threat to all of us” (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya novostei).

13 september 2004

- Protestors call for extradition of Zakayev and Akhmadov: Hundreds of Russians demonstrated in front of the U.S. and British embassies on Friday, accusing these two countries’ governments of double standards on terrorism and demanding the extradition of two prominent Chechen separatists, Ilyas Akhmadov and Akhmed Zakayev, to whom they have granted asylum. Interfax reports that among the participants in the rallies were students and representatives of various political parties and public movements (Izvestia, The Moscow Times, Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta).

- FM Lavrov: pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases last resort: Interfax quotes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying that delivering pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases in other parts of the world would be an extreme measure and a last resort for the Russian government. Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov reiterated that Moscow would decide on its own when to deal pre-emptive strikes against terrorist bases, says Interfax. Izvestia (front page) comments that, although no particular country where a strike might be delivered is mentioned, the first target is actually known – it is the Pankisi gorge in Georgia, which the Russian authorities have identified as an area of refuge for Chechen rebels (Interfax, Izvestia).

- Over 100 Chechens denied entry into Poland: Polish border guards did not allow 101 Russian citizens of Chechen nationality to enter Poland through the Warsaw bridge checkpoint near Brest on Saturday morning. Izvestia (front page) says that, according to the Russian consulate in Belarus, Polish border guards constantly deny entry to Chechens due to a terrorist threat (Izvestia, Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Gazeta, Vremya novostei).

15 september 2004

- U.S. Ambassador says Chechen rebels are still hiding in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge: Chechen rebels with links to international terrorists are still hiding in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles said, backing long-standing accusations by Russia. He also mentioned that the number of terrorists in the gorge has dropped by two-thirds. Nezavisimaya gazeta reports on the issue under the headline “U.S. Ambassador to Georgia indicated to the Russian military the direction of pre-emptive strikes on terrorists” (The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kommersant, Trud).

- Russia demands that Lithuania closes Chechen separatists’ web site: Gazeta reports in an article entitled “Lithuania helps Chechen terrorists” that the Internet site of Chechen separatists “Kavkaz-centr” has caused serious disagreements between Lithuania and Russia. Russia demands that the oppositional site placed on the servers of a Lithuanian provider be immediately closed. However, the Lithuanian side has refused to meet the Russian demands saying that it could be done only in accordance with a court decision (Gazeta, Izvestia, The Moscow Times, Kommersant).

16 september 2004

- FM Lavrov: political reforms in Russia its internal affair: All media report on the critical reaction of the West to the political reforms proposed by President Putin. Kommersant notes in an article entitled “Vladimir Putin made a step in the wrong direction” that a critical remark by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell “gave green light to a series of harsh statements” criticising the approach of the Russian leadership to the Chechen issue. In particular, the daily quotes remarks by Chris Patten at an EP session. According to Novye Izvestia, the Commissioner’s spokesperson Emma Udwin said that even in the face of a terrorist threat, it is necessary to respect democracy and human rights. All media quote Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying in reply to Powell’s criticism that political reforms in Russia are its internal affair. Lavrov added that Russia is not commenting on the way the U.S. elects its president through the Electoral College instead of having direct elections. Nezavisimaya gazeta stresses that it was already the fourth harsh statement by Sergey Lavrov addressed to the West during the last two weeks. All those statements were related to the Beslan tragedy, the Chechen issue and the fight against terrorism. Kommersant and Nezavisimaya gazeta run the story on their front pages. An article in Vremya novostei is entitled “And how are U.S. presidents elected?” (All media).

- Moscow welcomes U.S. decision to freeze accounts of a Saudi charity financing Chechen terrorists: Interfax quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko as saying that Moscow welcomes a decision by the U.S. authorities to freeze the accounts of the Saudi charity organisation “All Haramain Islamic Foundation” that financed Chechen terrorists (Interfax).

17 september 2004

- Union of Right Forces voices “reserved criticism” against Putin’s reform plans: Curtailment of freedom and democracy is tantamount to concessions to terrorist, said a statement from the liberal Union of Right Forces (SPS), whose governing body met on Thursday. The statement also says that the unresolved Chechen issue as well as international terrorism is to blame for terror attacks in Russia. Kommersant notes that party members chose a more “reserved” version of the statement refusing to support Boris Nemtsov who insisted on harsher wording. The media also report that activists of the Yabloko and Communist parties staged a rally in Moscow protesting against Putin’s reform plans (Kommersant, Interfax).

- Chechen oil to fill CPC: Rosneft’s spokesman yesterday announced that the state-owned company would start soon pump its oil into the Caspian Pipeline Consortium’s (CPC) pipeline within a 40,000 barrels per day quota belonging to its joint venture with Royal Dutch/Shell. All that oil, as Rosneft explained, would be coming by rail from Chechnya (The Moscow Times).

20 september 2004

- Chechen warlord Basayev assumes responsibility for Beslan hostage-taking: Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan hostage tragedy and four other recent attacks and threatened to carry out more. Basayev’s statement appeared on Friday on the Lithuanian-based rebel web site Kavrazcenter.com that was shut down by Vilnius the day after. According to Kommersant (front page), Basayev claimed that the hostage takers demanded not only the withdrawal of Russian troop from Chechnya and the recognition of its independence but also the resignation of President Putin. Basayev also said that there were 33 attackers, contrary to official reports on 32 terrorists who took part in the Beslan raid. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reacted to Basayev’s statements by saying, “We had little doubt that he was involved in these terrorist acts”. As for Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, Lavrov made note of Mashadov’s remark in Georgian media outlets, which can be interpreted as “a direct encouragement of terrorism, if not evidence that he was in control of the whole thing” (All media).

- Murderer of a Chechen girl to be pardoned?: The Ulyanovsk regional clemency commission has granted a pardon to Yury Budanov, who had been sentenced to ten years in prison for murdering Chechen girl Elsa Kungayeva. The decision is to be approved by regional Governor Shamanov (former comrade-in-arms of Budanov) and by President Putin. Vremya novostei quotes Dmitry Kozak, the recently appointed presidential envoy in the Southern Federal District, as saying that the decision on pardoning Budanov is within the competence of the President. “We have repeatedly applied it in relation to the other side of the conflict – those people who took part in illegal armed formations; it is possible that there are such grounds in this case as well”, he said. Interfax reports that in a statement circulated on Saturday, Chechnya’s first deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said that the Chechen commanders who are struggling against the bandits “will never put up with the murderer’s possible release”. Novye Izvestia stresses in a front-page article entitled “Shall we pardon a terrorist?” that the possible pardoning of Budanov may trigger “a negative reaction in the Caucasus” and “a harsh splash of violence” (All media).

- CoE Commissioner to visit Chechnya: Interfax reports that Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for human rights, arrived in Russia on Sunday for a ten-day visit. Following a trip to the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, Gil-Robles will travel to Chechnya. Interfax notes that upon his arrival in Moscow, Gil-Robles declined to comment on the reforms recently proposed by President Putin saying “those were Russian internal issues” (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta).

- The Moscow Times briefly reports in an article entitled “UN on Chechnya” that the UN’s top refugee official urged European nations to accommodate Chechens fleeing the republic, insisting that they “have the right to knock on our European door”.

21 september 2004

- Justice Ministry, prosecutors find procedural violations in Budanov’s pardon plea: Following the decision by the Ulyanovsk clemency commission to pardon colonel Budanov who was sentenced to ten years in prison for killing a Chechen girl, regional governor Shamanov upheld that decision and it needed only the approval by the President. At this point, the Justice Ministry found some procedural violations in the way the pardon plea was handled by the Ulyanovsk commission; and the prosecutor’s office of the Ulyanovsk region said that several legal requirements were broken. Vremya novostei (front page) comments that the Justice Ministry and the prosecutor’s office gave Vladimir Putin a chance to painlessly get out of the awkward situation in which the Ulyanovsk clemency commission had put him (All media).

- 11,000 detained in police raids: The Moscow Times reports that in two days of raids, Moscow police have rounded up more than 11,000 Russians and foreigners on suspicion of living in the city without registration with the authorities. The paper adds that Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov is seeking a law that would require all visitors to register immediately upon their arrival, while a City Duma deputy wants a ban on all visitors from Chechnya and other areas where counter-terrorism operations are under way (The Moscow Times).

22 september 2004

- Duma to hold first plenary session after summer recess: The State Duma will hold its first plenary session after the summer recess today. The session will be devoted entirely to the Beslan tragedy and the other recent terrorist attacks. The Duma will draft a timetable for considering 44 anti-terrorism legislative proposals that have already been submitted to the lower chamber. According to Parlamentskaya gazeta, more amendments will follow. Kommersant says that legislative proposals to be considered by the Duma include lifting the moratorium on death penalty. However, according to the daily, the pro-Kremlin United Russia faction does not support this move (the re-introduction of death penalty will make the extradition of criminals to Russia impossible). It is also expected that the State Duma will adopt today a statement urging the authorities of the US and Great Britain to halt the operations of emissaries of Chechen separatists, Ilyas Akhmadov and Akhmed Zakayev. Kommersant adds that a longer-term plan of Duma’s work includes the consideration of the 2005 budget and of President Putin’s political reforms plan. According to the daily, the President also plans to submit a draft law raising the minimum party membership requirement from 10,000 to 100,000 people (All media).

- Budanov recalls pardon appeal: Colonel Yury Budanov, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in the Ulyanovsk region for murdering Chechen girl Elza Kungayeva, has recalled his pardon appeal. According to Kommersant, Budanov’s lawyer accounted for his client’s decision by “unprecedented pressure”. The Moscow Times stresses that hundreds of people rallied in the Chechen capital yesterday demanding that President Putin refuse to pardon Budanov. Izvestia comments that by recalling his appeal, Budanov has saved President Putin from the necessity to make a choice that would have anyway split the Russian society. However, adds Kommersant, Budanov may be set free “without the President’s participation” in six months, when half of his prison term expires and if the prison administration supports his appeal (All media).

23 september 2004

- State Duma specifies priorities in amending anti-terrorist legislation: Convening for the first time after the summer recess, the State Duma adopted yesterday a timetable for the consideration of counter-terrorism legislation. According to a resolution adopted by Duma deputies, radical changes must be made in the organisation of interaction between all agencies responsible for the fight against terrorism; special passport, visa and registration measures must be introduced in individual Russian regions; and the financing for the fight against terrorism must be increased. The Moscow Times highlights a remark by Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov that the draft law proposing tougher residency rules would be one of the “important laws”. At it was expected, the Rodina faction failed yesterday to win enough votes for an end to a moratorium on the death penalty; proposals to immediately call heads of law enforcement agencies to report to the parliament were also rejected. The Duma appointed ten members to the joint Federation Council-State Duma Beslan commission, set up a standing commission on North Caucasus and adopted a statement calling on the U.S. and British authorities to prevent the activities of Chechen separatists’ emissaries Ilyas Akhmadov and Akhmed Zakayev (All media).

- Recruiter of suicide bombers detained in Chechnya: The media quote the FSB spokesman for Chechnya, Ilya Shabalkin, as saying that Natalya Khalkayeva, a woman who was detained in Chechnya on suspicion of recruiting suicide bombers, also facilitated contacts among different rebel groups and collected funds abroad for the rebels. Khalkayeva frequently travelled outside Chechnya over the past few months in order to receive foreign funds used for terrorist attacks and recruitment, including of female suicide bombers, Shabalkin said (Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta, The Moscow Times).

- Situation in North Caucasus to further exacerbate in early October?: Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that further escalation of tensions in the North Caucasus can be expected in the first half of October when the inauguration of Chechen President Alu Alkhanov will take place (5 October) and 40 days since the deaths of numerous Beslan hostages will be marked (an important date in the Orthodox tradition) (Nezavisimaya gazeta).

24 september 2004

- Two Ingush policemen charged with aiding terrorists: The Prosecutor General’s Office has charged two Ingush policemen with aiding and abetting terrorists. The policemen were arrested under the investigation into an armed attack on a number of Ingush communities on 21-22 June. One of the suspects is said to have acted as a driver of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev during the preparation of the terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of over 100 people (Vremya novostei, Kommersant, Interfax, Gazeta, Izvestia).

27 september 2004

- Ombudsman appointed in Chechnya; CoE Human Rights Commissioner visits Chechnya: Rossiyskaya gazeta reports that the Chechen State Council appointed the lawyer Lema Khasuyev as the provisional Chechen human rights ombudsman. Under the Chechen Constitution, the human rights ombudsman is to be appointed by the Chechen parliament, which has not been elected in the republic so far. Kommersant links the appointment to the visit of Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil Robles to Chechnya. According to the daily, Gil Robles pointed to numerous human rights violations in the republic and insisted that the institute of ombudsman be introduced. Kommersant further notes that independent Chechen human rights activists has described Lema Khasuyev as “a pocket ombudsman” (Rossiyskaya gazeta, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Interfax, Novye Izvestia).

29 september 2004

- Paul Klebnikov’s murder solved?: The Moscow police have detained two Chechen men on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Paul Klebnikov, an American journalist and editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine. Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin told the press that police seized three handguns from the detainees; one of them “might have a relation to Klebnikov’s murder”. Klebnikov was shot outside his Moscow office on 9 July. Gazeta points to a harsh reaction to Pronin’s statement by the Office of the Prosecutor General, which accused Pronin of disclosing the results of the preliminary investigation. The media recall that in 2003, Klebnikov published a book “Conversations with a Barbarian” based on interviews with Chechen rebel financier Nukhayev. The book criticised the violent way of life in rural Chechen communities. Izvestia reports on the issue in a front-page article entitled “Untimely disclosure” (All media).

30 september 2004

- CoE Commissioner praises debates in Russia on electoral changes: The media continue to comment of the visit of Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles to Russia. Interfax quotes Gil-Robles as saying that he attached great importance to public debates in Russia on planned electoral changes. He also said that the debates were “an increasingly positive fact” and the country’s electoral reform plan was its “internal affair”. Gil-Robles shared his impressions on the recent visit to Chechnya in an interview with Izvestia entitled “Trips to Chechnya are always painful”(Izvestia, Interfax, Novye Izvestia).

- Maskhadov trapped?: Gazeta reports that after three days of fierce fighting, the federal forces have allegedly blocked a group of about 100 Chechen militants, including separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, near the village of Alleroi (south-east of Chechnya). The paper notes, however, that similar reports appeared in the past, while Maskhadov always managed to flee. Izvestia recalls in a front-page article entitled “Thousand people looking for Aslan Maskhadov” that the FSB has offered a $10 million reward for information about Maskhadov’s whereabouts, and a special FSB group was set up with no other missions but to kill Maskhadov and Basayev (Izvestia, Kommersant, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Gazeta, Vremya novostei).

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