Socialist United Party Chairman quits his post following sharp criticism: Socialist United Party Chairman Ivan Rybkin decided to quit his post following sharp criticism of his open letter to President Putin with an appeal to stop war in Chechnya (See Political headlines of 28 June). At the party’s plenary meeting over the weekend, Rybkin was accused by party members of being influenced by businessman Berezovsky, whom he recently visited in England (Kommersant, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya novostei).
New prosecutor appointed to Budanov’s trial: Yesterday a new prosecutor was appointed to colonel Budanov’s trial. Budanov is charged with a murder of a teenage Chechen girl. The appointment of a new prosecutor followed unusual public criticism about the treatment of the case by Prosecutor General Ustinov, who said that the defendant was being prosecuted too leniently. The previous prosecutor in the case had recommended that Budanov be sentenced to three years in prison but be made eligible for immediate amnesty (Kommersant, Izvestia, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei, Interfax).
Investigation of Budanov case to be resumed: The judge trying the case of colonel Budanov has ruled to resume the investigation of the case and has scheduled another psychiatric evaluation of the defendant. The place and time of the evaluation have not been determined. Budanov is being accused of murdering a Chechen girl (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Interfax, The Moscow Times, Trud, Kommersant).
Chechnya: (1) Former brigade general Arsanukayev, who was quite close to Dudayev and Maskhadov, appealed yesterday to the head of Chechen Administration Kadyrov for amnesty. Kommersant predicts that most probably Arsanukayev’s request will be satisfied (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta). (2) Nikolay Ponomarev, an employee of the Directorate for Building Repair Work in Chenchnya, was murdered yesterday in Grozny. Interfax quotes the chief engineer of the Directorate as saying that it was a carefully planned action, “whose aim is to intimidate the staff and prevent them from doing their normal work” (Kommersant, Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
Chechnya: (1) Russian special services in Chechnya claimed that they possess audio tapes, on which former Ichkerian leader Maskhadov calls on his followers to extort money from Chechen business people through racketeering (Izvestia, Interfax); (2) Izvestia reports that yesterday the law enforcement agencies of Chechnya managed to prevent an attempt by Basayev’s rebels to be employed by the Chechen special police; (3) Yesterday unidentified assassins killed Shamil Murtazayev, head of department in the Vedeno District Administration (Interfax).
Duma committee chairman Rogozin opposes visit of European Parliament officials to Chechnya: Dmitry Rogozin, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, told Interfax yesterday, that he opposes the visit of European Parliament officials to Chechnya. According to Rogozin, in spring the EP adopted a resolution, which the Russian parliamentarians believe gives a biased assessment of the situation in Northern Caucasus. As for the EP’s committee for Chechnya, Rogozin said its formation will cause an overlap of functions with the Joint Duma-PACE group on Chechnya, which has been operating efficiently for a long time.
Chechen office in Strasbourg closed: Chairman of Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Margelov expressed his satisfaction that a so-called Ichkerian representative office at the Council of Europe was closed. The office was opened in Strasbourg a year ago and was supported by the Council of Europe and French authorities. According to Margelov, the closure of the office proves that French authorities changed their position on the Chechen issue (Interfax).
PACE delegation arrives in Russia: Yesterday a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), headed by Lord Frank Judd, arrived in Moscow. The aim of the visit is to discuss the situation in Chechnya within the framework of the joint PACE-State Duma working group on Chechnya. The visit was to take place last month but was postponed due to the flood in Northern Caucasus (Kommersant).
Human rights groups refuse to take party in Grozny meetings with authorities: Some of Russian leading human rights groups, including Memorial, said that they would no longer take part in monthly meetings with authorities in Grozny, saying that the meetings have failed to improve the treatment of civilians in Chechnya (The Moscow Times, Interfax).
Chechnya: PACE visit, no more refugee tents? : (1) Meeting with Prosecutor General Ustinov, PACE representative Lord Judd voiced criticism over the failure of authorities to investigate mass graves of civilians in Chechnya. According to Ustinov, the involvement of Russian servicemen in the killing has not been proved; and “rebels dressed as servicemen could be involved in the crimes”. Responding to Judd’s concerns, Ustinov suggested they travel together to Chechnya to get first hand information (Interfax, The Moscow Times). (2) Kommersant reports that there are no more refugee tent camps remaining on the territory of Chechnya. Their residents have moved to the centres of temporary settlement or to their remaining houses. The recent floods and rumours about replacement apparently sped up the process.
New human rights representatives appointed: On Friday President Putin appointed Abdul-Khakim Sultugov Chechnya’s human rights representative. The post was previously held by Kalamanov. Sultugov, an ethnic Chechen, used to work in the position of head of staff of State Duma’s Chechnya Affairs Commission. According to The Moscow Times, human rights activists have already expressed disappointment with the news. On Friday, Ella Pamfilova, former Duma deputy and Social Welfare Minister, was appointed head of presidential human rights commission. In recent years she founded and headed the Citizen’s Dignity civil rights NGO (Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Novye izvestia, Kommersant, Vremya MN, The Moscow Times).
Punitive operation of rebels in Chechnya: As a result of a punitive operation, held by some 30 rebels in Achkhoi Martan on Monday night, 2 local residents, supporting the federal authorities, were killed and 5 were wounded. Kommersant points out that the police and the military turned up only in the morning – when the victims could no longer be helped (Kommersant, Izvestia, Novye izvestia).
In a TV interview yesterday, Chechnya presidential envoy Sultygov sharply criticised mop-up operations in their present form (Interfax). Another report from Interfax quotes presidential aide Yastrzhembsky as saying that illegal actions by federal troops in Chechnya demoralize the army. He pointed out that “courts should appropriately assess such illegal actions”.
New evidence on 1999 apartment houses bombings: (1) FSB official Kolesnikov said yesterday that in September 1999 two apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk were blown up under an order given by Chechen rebel commander Khattab. This evidence is based on the first statements given by Dekkushev, a chief suspect in the bombings who was extradited to Russia by Georgia two days ago (Interfax). (2) Former FSB officer Litvinenko, who left Russia in 2000, said yesterday that he had been in contact with another suspect in 1999 bombings Gochiyaev who allegedly provided him with evidence on who ordered the attacks. Kommersant suspects that Litvinenko’s news are a reaction to Dekkushev’s arrest, whose testimony might ruin Litvinenko’s attempts to prove FSB’s involvement in bombings (Kommersant, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
New presidential envoy on Chechnya determined to put an end to people disappearing: Presidential envoy on human rights in Chechnya Sultygov expressed his determination to put an end to people disappearing in Chechnya. “Even if there is only one case of disappearance, it must be investigated and those guilty must be held accountable”, he said (Interfax, Kommersant). Interfax reports that women from the Chechen communities of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya have been blocking the traffic along the federal Kavkaz highway for several days, demanding that authorities investigate the disappearance of five residents from those villages.
Colonel Budanov may face new charges: Colonel Budanov, who is on a high profile trial for killing a Chechen woman, may soon face new charges relating to the detention by troops under his command of four Chechen truck drivers in January 2000. The bodies of three of them were later found at a cemetery near the village of Tangi. After Budanov’s trial was shown on television, the relatives identified the man who had detained their sons (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
American Ambassador speaks on Kaliningrad: Interfax quotes statements made by American Ambassador to Russia Vershbow criticising mopping-up operations carried out by Russian servicemen in Chechnya, pointing out that a political process should be started. At the same time, he admitted that in the wake of 11 September, the U.S. gained a better understanding of the international terrorist aspect in the Chechen conflict. (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Gil Robles expressed concern over the increasing number of anti-Semitic demonstrations in Russia and over the humanitarian situation in Chechnya. (Interfax).
Colonel Budanov transported to Moscow for new examination: Colonel Budanov, who is facing charges of murdering a Chechen woman, has been transported from Rostov-on-Don to Moscow, where a new psychiatric examination will be conducted. The previous examination found the colonel temporarily insane at the time of the murder and hence he could have benefited from an amnesty (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
Human rights activists concerned about situation in Chechnya: As the representatives of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said at a press conference yesterday, between 50 and 80 Chechen civilians are killed every month. They said that people disappear during regular mopping-up operations and raids. Human rights activists also expressed concern that the refugees’ return from tent camps in Ingushetia to Chechnya is not, in effect, voluntarily, adding that when no basic supplies are delivered, people are likely to leave (Interfax, Novye izvestia, The Moscow Times). Another report from Interfax quotes Chairman of the Chechen government Ilyasov as saying that “people are dying, but at the hands of criminals… 80% of the Republic’s losses are inflicted by criminals”. Kommersant publishes an article on the return of refugees to Chechnya and quotes Ingush President Zyazikov, who said that the return to Chechnya is strictly voluntary.
Head of Edinaya Rossiya’s district branch in Chechnya murdered: Kommersant reports that Burdudi Usmanov, head of Edinaya Rossiya’s district branch in Chechnya was murdered. According to the newspaper, it could be a political murder, as Usmanov was in opposition to the leadership of Edinaya Rossiya’s republican branch in Chechnya.
UN suspends humanitarian aid in Chechnya: The UN has suspended humanitarian programmes in Chechnya indefinitely after the kidnapping of a Russian woman working on a partner programme. Head of Chechnya’s Administration Akhmad Kadyrov has criticised the decision and claims that the abductors were aiming precisely to halt international humanitarian aid to Chechnya (Interfax, Izvestia, The Moscow Times).
More than half of Chechen rebel group reported to be eliminated: According to the spokesman of the Federal Forces in North Caucasus Shabalkin, federal forces have eliminated more than half of a rebel group that had crossed into Chechnya from Georgia, while the remaining rebels have been surrounded. (Kommersant, Trud, Vremya novostei, Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
Chechnya’s economic restructuring falls behind schedule: The government commission for the economic and social recovery of Chechnya discussed the implementation of the federal investment and housing programmes for the war-devastated republic at a meeting yesterday. The commission, headed by Deputy PM Khristenko, established that the investment programme had been fulfilled by only 17%, whilst only 31% of the housing construction programme had been implemented (Kommersant).