Chechnya: (i) A high-ranking officer of the Federal Border Service denied reports yesterday of a 200-men strong rebel unit infiltrating Ingushetia from Georgia. However, the 58-th army ‘s chief of staff, Gen Chirkin, has confirmed that the headquarters have evidence of rebel bands intending to enter Russia from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. (ii) A Rostov-on-Don military court ruled yesterday to keep Col Budanov who is accused of murdering the Chechen girl, in custody until 3 January 2003 (Rossia, NTV, Interfax, Kommersant).
Group of rebels encircled: A group of some 60-70 rebels who have penetrated into Ingushetia from Georgian territory was encircled near the Ingush-Chechen administrative border. The operation is being carried out on difficult terrain, and it is hard to say when it will be over (Interfax, Izvestia).
Putin signs decree on commandant’s offices in Chechnya: The presidential decree defines the role of military commandant’s offices in Chechnya. Kommersant comments that this decree sets up the necessary legal basis for the activities of such offices, while Nezavisimaya gazeta is quite critical claiming that the President “gave the power in the region to the army” (Interfax, Kommersant, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
Remnants of rebel group eliminated: Sources in the 58th Army has finished a special operation in Ingushetia to eliminate a rebel group that entered the village of Galashki from Georgia a month ago. The group consisted of some 180 rebels. According to the source, during the operation 21 soldiers of the 58th army were killed and another 25 were wounded. It is not excluded that some rebels managed to flee to Chechnya (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times).
70,000 displaced persons return to Chechnya: According to the Federal Migration Service, more than 70,000 displaced persons have returned to Chechnya from Ingushetia since the beginning of the year (Interfax).
Census: Chechnya’s population exceeds one million: Dailies continue to comment on the unexpected census results in Chechnya: since the 1989 census its population has increased considerably. In 1989 there were 1.27 million people living both in Chechnya and Ingushetia. According to Vremya MN, given that thousands of people were killed, and several hundred thousand left Chechnya as refugees, the new data can only be interpreted either as resulting from a very high rise in childbirth or a falsification. The rise in population should lead to a higher budget of the republic. Vremya MN also comments that by taking part in the census, the people in Chechnya have confirmed their Russian citizenship and hit a serious blow against separatists (Interfax, Vremya MN, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vedomosti).
Presidential human rights envoy meets with members of Chechnya’s separatist parliament: Sultygov, presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, said that he had met with 14 members of the republic’s separatist parliament and suggested they could become Russia’s partners in building peace. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, participants in the meeting agreed to set up a standing joint group (The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
Chechen Duma deputy to hold talks with separatist representative: It is reported that Chechen Duma deputy Aslakhanov will soon meet with separatists’ representative Zakayev in Switzerland. Aslakhanov has already taken part in two informal meetings of Russian politicians with Zakayev. The federal centre has been critical about such informal contacts with separatist representatives (Kommersant, Interfax).
Supreme Court of Dagestan begins hearings of rebel’s case: Yesterday the Supreme Court of Dagestan began the hearings of a high-profile criminal case against Tamerlan Khasayev, a Chechen rebel who took part in the filmed execution of six Russian servicemen in 1999 (Kommersant, Interfax).
Kommersant and The Moscow Times report that yesterday the European Commission approved 20.5 million Euros in aid to refugees from Chechnya to provide food, shelter and clothing. Commissioner Nielson is quoted as saying that the alleviation of refugees’ sufferings is not only a moral duty but also a responsibility, which all states should bear.
One person killed, two missing in helicopter crash in Chechnya: Yesterday a Mi8 helicopter crashed in Chechnya while making an emergency landing in unfavourable weather conditions. According to some reports, one person was killed, two are missing, while other sources say the death toll was higher (Kommersant, Interfax).
Bomb explosion in Moscow near McDonald’s kills teenager, seven wounded: A car bomb exploded near a McDonald’s restaurant in South-West of the city at lunchtime on Saturday killing a teenager and injuring seven other people. Officials disagree on whether it was a terrorist act or “a showdown between two Chechen gangs” (All media).
Some 700 people taken hostage by armed Chechens during performance at Moscow theatre: 40-50 Chechen suicide fighters took hostage the audience of some 700 people during a performance at a Moscow theatre last night. Muslims and some children were released. It is reported that among the audience are also foreigners, including British, Dutch, German and Austrian citizens, who are likely to be released soon. Movsar Barayev, a relative of killed Chechen warlord Arbi Barayev, probably heads the terrorists. They demand the withdrawal of troops from Chechnya (All media).
Duma and Federation Council pass statements on hostage situation: Yesterday the State Duma unanimously adopted a statement on the hostage situation in Moscow. The Duma called on the “hostage-takers to have common sense and to release the innocent people, first and foremost women and children”. Federation Council adopted an appeal to parliaments around the world to condemn the terrorist action in Moscow. The document stresses that “this terrorist attack comes as another challenge to the world community” and it is seen by the Council as a “direct continuation of the 11 September events in the U.S.” Margelov, head of Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, commented that the hostage taking in Moscow is a “large-scale and well prepared provocation aimed at disrupting the preparation for a referendum on the Chechen constitution, which is a landmark event for the peace settlement in the republic”. Izvestia comments that the terrorist attack in Moscow may nullify the efforts of those who advocate for negotiations in Chechnya (All media).
Duma deputies hold talks with hostage-takers: Yesterday Duma deputies Khakamada, Nemtsov, Kobzon and Yavlinsky held talks with hostage-takers. Yavlinsky is quoted as saying that he wanted to make a number of proposals to the hostage-takers, which, in his view, could help resolve the situation. Khakamada said that her talks were difficult as she had an impression that the hostage-takers “are not independent people and there is somebody else behind them”. According to Khakamada, their demands remain unchanged – the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya (All media).
Foreign Ministry protests against presentation of The Chechen Times newspaper in the Netherlands: Yesterday the Foreign Ministry protested against the planned presentation of The Chechen Times newspaper in the Netherlands. According to Kommersant, the presentation was cancelled (Kommersant).
Foreign Ministry protests against holding “Chechen Congress” in Copenhagen: According to a Foreign Ministry report quoted by Interfax, a representative of the Danish embassy in Russia was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday. Deputy FM Losyukov launched a strong protest against the plans to hold an “International Chechen Congress” in Copenhagen. According to the report, extremist forces that want to thwart the political settlement in Chechnya and isolate Chechnya from Russia are behind the organization of “the congress” in Copenhagen. Rogozin, Chairman of State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, said he was perplexed by the fact that the Danish authorities have not yet responded to the official representation by Russia (Interfax, Kommersant).
Theatre stormed, hostages released, 117 dead, almost all died of gas poisoning: Early in the morning on Saturday special troops stormed the theatre building where some 750 hostages had been kept by Chechen terrorists since Wednesday. The shooting of two hostages allegedly prompted the storming. The special troops pumped gas into the building to knock out the terrorists. The gas had practically instant effect and did not allow the terrorists to blow up the building. The gas has caused 115 out of 117 deaths among the hostages. Fifty rebels were killed in the operation. About 650 people were hospitalised shortly after the release. Some of the former hostages were discharged from hospitals yesterday. About 45 people are still in a critical condition. During the weekend relatives were not allowed to enter hospitals where the hostages were being treated (All media).
Terrorist act in Moscow plotted abroad, Maskhadov involved? Interfax quotes a highly placed Chechen official as saying that the seizure of hostages in Moscow was organized by an international terrorist group; there were Arabs and Afghans among the terrorists and the most of the women terrorists were citizens of Middle East countries. Interfax also informs that FSB has got a tape filmed several days before the terrorist act, in which Maskhadov is saying that in the very near future the rebels would hold an operation, which would radically change the development of the Chechen war. Duma deputy Kobzon, who held talks with the terrorists, also said that they had mentioned that Maskhadov sent them. However, Maskhadov’s representatives deny this information. There is also evidence that the terrorists made a number of calls from the seized theatre to their accomplices in Chechnya and abroad (All media).
Russia protests against holding of Chechen congress in Denmark. Russia-EU Copenhagen summit in jeopardy: The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a communiqué that neither a Russian-Danish meeting, nor a Russia-EU summit will be possible, if the so-called world Chechen congress is held in Copenhagen. Sultygov, presidential commissioner for human rights in Chechnya, even suggested that the organizers of the Chechen Congress had known about the planned attack in Moscow. He noted that “the congress is aimed at disrupting the political process in Chechnya and referendum on the constitution”. Lenta-ru refers to Associated Press which announces that the EU-Russia summit will be transferred to Brussels (Interfax, Lenta-Ru, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kommersant, Izvestia, Vremya novostei).
Foreign Ministry protests against pro-Chechen meeting in Paris: The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed “serious concern” over France’s failure to prevent a Saturday meeting in Paris in support of Chechen rebels (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
Coverage of hostage crisis by Russian press: All Russian media excessively reported on the hostage crisis in Moscow. There was ongoing live coverage by all TV channels. The current media’s focus is revealed in today’s headlines: Izvestia: “Lessons of October”, “People were killed not by gas but by stress”, “We jumped out of hell”, “Consequences”, Kommersant: “Overdose”, “Moscow Chechens afraid of sweep operations”; Novaya gazeta: “Hostages of war”; Rossiyskaya gazeta: “Memory about the dead must unite us”; “Lessons of Nord-Ost”; “There are no good terrorists”.
DK position on Chechen world congress in Copenhagen high in the news; EU-Russia summit to be moved to Brussels: All TV channels focused on this issue in news programmes yesterday. Izvestia reports that the permission by the Danish authorities to hold a Chechen congress in Copenhagen gave rise to one of the most serious conflicts in the history of Russian - Danish bilateral relations. The daily also notes that the congress refused to remember hostage victims by a minute of silence. Kommersant reports that the most famous Chechen representatives residing in Russia did not participate in the congress. Vremya novostei and Rossiyskaya gazeta pay attention to the timing of the congress – it opened on the day of national mourning in Russia. According to presidential aide Yastrzhembsky, it is “outrageous that there hasn’t even been any attempt to put off this event in view of all the tragic circumstances that happened in Russia”. Other politicians are also quoted as condemning the holding of the congress. Vremya novostei and Izvestia publish articles on the issue under the headline “Something is rotten in the Danish state”. Dailies inform that the EU-Russia summit on 11 November will be moved to Brussels (Kommersant, Izvestia, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vremya MN, Novye izvestia, Interfax, Trud, Parlamentskaya gazeta).
Putin instructs “to change plans for using armed forces”, no softening of policy in Chechnya: At a regular meeting with government members yesterday, Putin stated that Russia will not make any deals with terrorists nor yield to blackmail despite “threats from terrorists to resort to means of mass destruction”. Putin said he would instruct the General Staff to “change the plans for using the armed forces”. Media comment that the Kremlin will not soften its policies in Chechnya (Kommersant, Interfax, Izvestia, Trud).
Search for accomplices of terrorists continues: Media inform about the search of terrorists’ accomplices and increased security measures in the capital. There is little information about the hostage takers who were captured alive. Apparently they are being questioned by the FSB. A police officer, who allegedly supplied the terrorists with information from the official headquarters during the hostage crisis, was detained in Moscow yesterday. There are also reports about the detention in Moscow of two Chechens who held explosives and weapons in their car (All media).
Police crackdown in Moscow; tens of people detained: Interior Minister Gryzlov said yesterday that tens of people were detained during the search for the hostage takers’ accomplices. Kommersant believes that the majority of detainees have nothing to do with the terrorist act, which is also proved by the fact that a Moscow court has sanctioned so far the arrest of only two of them - the owners of minivans used by the terrorists. The Moscow Times reports that police officers have been checking the apartments and businesses of Moscow-based Chechens for the past few days and extorting bribes. According to Vremya MN, some Chechens say their fingerprints are forcefully being taken. Ella Pamfilova, head of presidential human rights commission, promised yesterday to monitor the police for human rights violations (Kommersant, Vremya MN, The Moscow Times, Interfax, Vremya MN, Izvestia).
Kadyrov supports arrest of Maskhadov’s envoy in Copenhagen at World Chechen Congress: Head of Chechen Administration Kadyrov has approved of the steps taken by Danish law enforcement agencies, which detained Maskhadov’s envoy Zakayev in Copenhagen on Wednesday morning. Zakayev had participated in the World Chechen Congress, which was strongly criticised by Russian authorities and media. The Chechen administration expressed hope that this arrest will be followed by other resolute steps by the European community to tighten measures against international terrorism (Interfax).
Media comment on international reactions to the hostage crisis: Kommersant publishes a front-page interview with U.S. Secretary of State Powell who says in particular that the Russian leadership had to deal with an extremely complicated problem, and at the time when the decision was taken there was no reason to believe it might inflict anything but the saving of hundreds of human lives. Kommersant also informs about the hearings on the Moscow terrorist act in the British parliament noting that British authorities possess information about connections between the Chechen hostage takers and Al-Quaeda (Kommersant, Vremya MN, Trud, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vremya novostei).
Helicopter shot down in Chechnya: Yesterday Chechen rebels shot down a Mi-8 helicopter outside the Russian military base in Khankala. Four people have been killed (Kommersant, Interfax, Vremya novostei, Izvestia, Rossiyskaya gaeta).
Opinion poll: following terror attack more people favour strong-arm methods in Chechnya: Izvestia informs about the results of a recent public opinion poll held by VTSIOM showing a shift in public opinion over Chechnya, with 57% instead of 44% favouring strong-arm methods in Chechnya (Izvestia).
Large-scale sweep operations in Chechnya resumed after terror attack: Izvestia reports that after the terror attack in Moscow large-scale sweep operations were resumed in Chechnya. The daily informs that the federal troops encircled the village of Prigiridnoye and publishes eyewitness reports of the operation. The article quotes village head Danilov as saying that the military “behaved relatively politely” and “only one person went missing” (Izvestia).
Activities in Chechnya of ECHO partner DRC criticised: Yesterday the headquarters of the Russian Combined Federal Forces in the North Caucasus noted that the activity of the Danish Refugee Council is largely aimed at providing Chechen rebels with material aid. They mentioned as an example that “food supplied through this organization is regularly found in bandit camps and caches” (Interfax).
Chairman of State Construction Committee replaced: Yesterday PM Kasyanov dismissed Anvar Shamuzafarov as chairman of the State Construction Committee and replaced him with Nicolay Koshman, who represented the federal government in Chechnya until 2001. Media point out that the dismissal of Shamuzafarov was quite predictable following sharp criticism over the reconstruction in the flood-stricken areas of Yakutia and the south of Russia. As Vremya novostei points out, the appointment of Niacolay Koshman was a surprise even to the most informed sources in the Cabinet (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Izvestia).
Rogozin: no meeting of Duma-PACE working group: State Duma International Affairs Chairman Rogozin said there would be no Duma-PACE working group on Chechnya on 7 November, as the Russians would not participate because Group’s Co-Chairman Lord Judd had kept silent during the last week’s tragedy in Moscow. Novye izvestia described this statement by Rogozin as “another public stupidity”. Rogozin also said he did not rule out the possibility that the terrorists, whose extradition to Russia was suspended by Georgia following a ruling of the Strasbourg court, could have had advance knowledge of the terror raid in Moscow last week. (Interfax, Novye izvestia).