1 april 2004
- 78 people abducted in Chechnya in 2004: Interfax reports that 78 Chechen residents have been kidnapped in the Republic since the beginning of the year, according to the ‘Memorial’ human rights centre. A total of 495 people were abducted in Chechnya in 2003 (Interfax).
2 april 2004
- Duma deputy: failure to provide speedy medical aid to hostages caused most of the deaths at Dubrovka: Several media outlets quote Vladimir Vasilyev, Chairman of Duma’s Committee on Security, as saying that the failure to provide speedy medical aid to hostages at the Dubrovka theatre after their release caused most of the deaths. The media highlight that authorities had long tried to put all the blame for the deaths on the Chechen rebels who seized the Dubrovka theatre centre in October 2002.. Vladimir Vasilyev, a former Deputy Interior Minister, served as the main spokesman of the authorities during the hostage crisis. Nezavisimaya gazeta highlights that at the press conference, Vasilyev also warned about the possibility of new terrorist attacks in Russia (Gazeta, The Moscow Times, Kommersant, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
- Presidential Envoy: misuse of federal funds in Chechnya reached over 2 billion roubles: Addressing a meeting on the economic development of Chechnya, held in Rostov-on-Don, Presidential Envoy for the Southern Federal District Vladimir Yakovlev stressed that last year’s targets of economic and social reconstruction in Chechnya were not met. According to Yakovlev, the misuse of Federal budget funds in the Chechen Republic reached 2.298 billion roubles (Kommersant, Itar-Tass).
5 april 2004
- Head of Maskhadov’s bodyguards surrenders: Several media outlets report that Shaa Turlayev, the head of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov’s bodyguards has surrendered to federal forces. The media highlight that a serious health problem was one of the reasons for his surrender. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that the closest fellows in arms of Aslan Maskhadov continue to leave him. However, in the paper’s view, this hardly makes the situation in the Republic more peaceful (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Interfax, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- Warlord Basayev most probably behind gas pipeline explosion in Dagestan: Several media outlets report on a gas pipeline explosion in Dagestan on Friday, highlighting that investigators have no doubt that Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev is behind the crime. Kommersant notes in an article entitled “Shamil Basayev went down to malicious hooliganism” that pipelines are the easiest target for terrorists, and Friday’s explosion might indicate that Shamil Basayev is “exhausted” (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Gazet).
6 april 2004
- Jury finds attempted suicide bomber guilty: Yesterday, a jury convicted would-be suicide bomber Zarema Muzhakhoyeva on all charges brought against her. Muzhakhoyeva, a resident of Chechnya of Ingush origin, was detained in the centre of Moscow last July for attempting to stage a terrorist act. An FSB agent, Georgy Trofimiv, was killed when trying to defuse a bomb hidden in Muzhakhoyeva’s bag. All media report that after the announcement of the verdict, Muzhakhoyeva shouted out that she would come back and blow up everyone (All media).
7 april 2004
- Ingush President attacked by suicide bomber: Yesterday, a car stuffed with explosives crashed into the motorcade of Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, lightly injuring him. A male suicide bomber drove the car. Kommersant reports that there are several theories behind the crime. According to one of them, it was a revenge of Wahhabis (Saudi based ultra-conservative Muslims). However, according to Kommersant, there is also an opinion that the attack was planned with a view to disrupt the allegedly ongoing negotiations on the surrender of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, who might be currently hiding in Ingushetia. The daily recalls that during the last few weeks several rebels close to Maskhadov, including Maskhadov’s Defence Minister and chief of security department, turned themselves to the federal law enforcement agencies. The daily stresses that Maskhadov’s surrender could be fatal for Chechen warlords Shamil Basayev and Abu al-Valid, and they could be the persons most interested in the disruption of the surrender talks. All media report that Chechen President Kadyrov made “a sensational statement” that he is ready to guarantee the safety of Aslan Maskhadov if he surrenders. Commenting on the versions behind the crime, Vremya novostei does not exclude the “Chechen trace” but also highlights that Zyazikov could have enemies in his own Republic. The Moscow Times points to Ingush residents’ growing mistrust of Zyazikov (All media).
12 april 2004
- EU-proposed draft resolution supports rebels, officials: (i) Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov described a draft resolution on Chechnya submitted by the EU to the 60th session of the UNHRC in Geneva as “objectively offering moral support for rebels”. The Chechen Security Council Secretary, Rudnik Dudayev, affirmed that “while assessing the situation in Chechnya, the EU and its experts are using 2 or 3-year old arguments”, adding that “we do not need any advisers from abroad to settle the problems facing Chechnya”. (ii) Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov called the draft resolution on Chechnya submitted by the EU “politicised” and “a sort of encouragement for terrorists”. He also expressed hope that it “be not adopted”. (iii) The Chairman of Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov called on European colleagues “to stop their useless attempts to play the ‘Chechen card’ in order to put political pressure on Moscow”. (Interfax, RIAN, Vremya novostei, Trud; see also articles on EU)
- Russian agents plead not guilty in Qatar, lawyer: Referring to a lawyer, Dmitry Afanasyev, the media report that the two Russian security agents pleaded not guilty of the murder of former Chechen separatist President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in their trial that opened in Doha yesterday. At the request of the defence lawyers, the next court hearings have been adjourned for 4 weeks. (Interfax, RG, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Gazeta, Vedomosti, MT)
- Satsita refugee camp not to be shut down by force: According to a Chechen Government representative, Mompash Machuyev, the authorities will not shut down the Satsita camp, the last remaining camp for Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, by force. He noted that there are currently 360 tents in Satsita, housing 1,700 refugees from Chechnya. (Interfax)
- Several Russian dailies report about a draft resolution on Chechnya submitted by the EU to the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission, pointing to a meeting by Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov with the EU Troika last Friday in Moscow:
(1) Today’s Vedomosti publishes an article entitled “The EU recalled Chechnya”, by Anfisa Voronina and Ekaterina Kudashkina.
(2) Izvestia (Saturday’s issue) publishes a short article called “EU countries criticizing Russia for Chechnya”.
(3) Vremya novostei carries an article headed “A Chechen trump of the European Union”, by Katerina Labetskaya.
(4) Novyie Izvestia briefly reports on the issue in an article called “The Russian MFA thinks that the EU is using the Chechen issue for pressure on Russia”.
13 april 2004
- Deputy FM comments on EU resolution on Chechnya; EU enlargement: (i) Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov said at a briefing in Moscow yesterday that Russia views the draft resolution on Chechnya that the EU submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission as “un unfriendly step”. “This step does not comply with the nature of Russia-EU relations”, he noted (Interfax). (ii) According to Vladimir Chizhov, quoted by Interfax, Moscow hopes that an additional protocol, which makes Russia-EU agreements valid for the new EU member countries, will be signed together with a joint statement addressing Russia’s enlargement-related concerns, on 27 April. (iii) According to Chizhov, Russia does not aim to become a permanent or associate member of the EU in the foreseeable future (Interfax).
- Defence Ministry rejects allegations on DM Ivanov’s involvement in Qatar killing: Several media outlets quote a report by a Qatari newspaper claiming that Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov personally ordered the assassination of former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar. According to Ivanov’s spokesman, such reports “cannot be called anything but absurd” (Kommersant, The Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya novostei, Gazeta).
14 april 2004
- Seven Chechen policemen die in clash with rebels: Several media outlets report that seven policemen were killed in a clash with a rebel group in Chechnya. Gazeta notes that the rebels have stepped up their activities in Chechnya, as they always do in the spring season, when the trees turn green making it easier for them to hide. Kommersant points to the overall indifference of the Russian public to the events in Chechnya and laments that the capture of eight Russians in Iraq had much more public response than the death of seven policemen in Chechnya (Interfax, Gazeta, Kommersant, Nezavisimay gazeta, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- HR organisation supports UN resolution criticising Russia for Chechnya: Human Rights Watch has called on the UN Commission on Human Rights to adopt a EU resolution criticising Russia for the human rights situation in Chechnya. “The latest incident of forced disappearances and extra-judicial executions should serve as a wake-up call to those who believe that things have improved in Chechnya”, reads its statement (Vremya novostei, Interfax).
15 april 2004
- FM Lavrov meets with EU Troika: Several dailies report on yesterday’s meeting of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with EU Troika in Dublin. Most of the articles contain little comment and are largely based on news agencies’ reports. Interfax reports that Sergey Lavrov urged the European Union to move faster in introducing a visa-free regime with Russia, reiterated Russia’s concerns about the rights of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states and voiced opposition to a UN Human Rights Commission resolution on human rights in Chechnya (See Articles on the EU in Russian newspapers).
- Warlord Basayev removes Maskhadov’s protégés from command: Several dailies report that Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev has removed protégés of separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov from his command team, thereby “practically leaving Maskhadov at a loose end”, as Izvestia puts it. In the paper’s view, the reshuffling could be interpreted as an indication that Maskhadov might soon surrender to the federal authorities. Gazeta accounts for the reshuffling by referring to the recent surrender of some prominent field commanders who were close to Maskhadov (Izvestia, Interfax, Gazeta).
16 april 2004
- UN rejects EU draft Resolution on Chechnya: In a 23-12 vote, the UN Commission on Human Rights rejected a EU-proposed draft Resolution criticising the human rights situation in Chechnya. China, India, Ukraine and Brazil were among the countries that voted against the Resolution. Interfax quotes Ella Pamfilova, Head of the Russian Presidential Commission for Human Rights, as saying that the EU-proposed Resolution “would not only have been senseless but also harmful”. Commenting on the rejection of the draft resolution, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that it “confirms once again that all attempts to present the situation in Chechnya as a human rights problem are ungrounded attempts and do not reflect the real state of affairs”. Vremya novostei notes that the UN Commission also rejected similar draft resolutions on China and Zimbabwe yesterday (Interfax, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Kommersant).
19 april 2004
- Head of Arab mercenaries in Chechnya killed?: Several dailies have published front-page articles reporting that Chechnya-based Arab mercenary Abu Al Valid, who is known to be rebels’ “financier” and is believed to be behind the terrorist act in the Moscow metro, may have been killed in one of the recent special operations in Chechnya. Gazeta comments in a front-page article entitled “The sixth death of Abu Al Valid” that “representatives of the federal forces do not seem to be very sure of their success. The dailies say that the head of Arab mercenaries might have died during one of bombings or in a helicopter strike, but at the same time, they do not exclude that this could also be a carefully staged disinformation attempt. The media also report on successful operations of the federal forces, which resulted in the extermination of four Chechen rebels and of an Ingush Wahhabi emir, who were close to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that the operations were held both in Chechnya and Ingushetia, stressing that “rebels have turned the two Republics into a single battlefield” (All media).
20 april 2004
- Russian, French FMs discuss Iraq, Baltic states, Chechnya: The media report that French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Moscow yesterday. Vremya novostei highlights that the Moscow visit was part of Barnier’s first foreign tour after the Minister’s appointment. In the Russian capital, Michel Barnier met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. According to Interfax, Moscow and Paris voiced confidence that the situation in Iraq can be settled only by forming a legitimate Iraqi government. The two Ministers also addressed the human rights situation in the Baltic states. Lavrov is quoted as saying that “it is necessary to do everything to ensure that those countries, which are now members of the EU, observe the obligations set forth in international documents”. During the discussion of the situation in Chechnya, Barnier spoke in support of a political solution to the Chechen issue, stressing that “such a settlement will become legitimate if human rights are observed and if the economy develops” (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novoste, Nezavisimaya gazetai).
21 april 2004
- Chechen leaders, human rights group blame federal forces for death of six villagers: Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov and Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudayev blamed an air raid reportedly conducted by federal forces for the death of a woman and her five children in a Chechen village on 8 April. Representatives of the human rights group ‘Memorial’ presented evidence supporting this version of events at a press conference in Moscow. The Air Force representatives had earlier denied that there were any flights on the day of the tragedy (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
22 april 2004
- Putin rejects EU call for talks with Chechen separatists: Whilst on a visit to Lipetsk, President Putin likened European Union’s call on Moscow to establish a dialogue with Chechen separatists to Bin Laden’s truce proposal for Europe. “If they do not want to begin negotiating with Bin Laden, they have no right to make us start negotiating with his followers, people who have been trained in his camps”, Putin said (All electronic media).
23 april 2004
- Muslim leader calls Chechen rebels’ resistance “sacred war”: Kommersant reports in a front-page article that well-known Muslim theologian Yusuf Kardavi has issued a fatwa, which calls the armed resistance of Chechen rebels “a sacred war” and declares a worldwide jihad. However, Maskhadov’s representatives insist that they are fighting not for the ideals of Islam but for political independence, reports the daily (Kommersant).
26 april 2004
- Trial of Russian citizens restarts in Qatar: All media report that yesterday, the trial of two Russian citizens accused of killing Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev restarted in Qatar. The media quote defence lawyer Dmitry Afanasyev as saying that the case materials lack any solid proof of the defendants’ involvement in the crime. Gazeta notes that yesterday’s court hearing was held behind closed doors and was accompanied by unprecedented security measures (All media).
- Chechen field commander died in prison hospital: Chechen field commander Lecha Islamov, who was sentenced last June to nine years in prison on charges of hostage taking and organising an illegal armed formation, died in a Volgograd prison hospital in what his relatives say is a case of deliberate food poisoning. However, the Justice Ministry insisted that Islamov died a natural death, reports Interfax (Interfax, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times).
30 april 2004
- Jury acquits servicemen charged with killing Chechen civilians: The jury of the Rostov-on-Don District Military Court acquitted a group of servicemen from a special task unit who had been charged with killing six civilians in Chechnya. The jury found that the servicemen did not exceed their authority. Prosecutors said that an appeal could be filed against the verdict. Interfax quotes Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov as saying that “the practice of helping servicemen guilty of the premeditated murder of civilians avoid responsibility undermines the authority of the federal centre and destroys the fragile confidence in the administration, which took many years to form”. Gazeta comments in a front-page article entitled “Licence for murder” that the servicemen were acquitted despite the fact that their participation in the massacre was not even put into question. Thereby, concludes the daily, servicemen in hot spots have been given a sort of “a licence for murder” (All media).
- Akhmat Kadyrov eliminates posts of Chechen Deputy PMs: Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov has signed a decree eliminating the posts of all seven Deputy Prime Ministers in the Republic’s Government. Interfax quotes Kadyrov as saying that “this is being done so that Prime Minister Sergey Abramov could work directly with the Ministers”. Kommersant notes that still, one of Chechen Ministers will be more equal than others, as according to the decree, Chechen Finance Minister Eli Isayev will substitute for Sergey Abramov in event of the latter’s absence. Therefore, concludes the daily, Isayev, who is known to be a close ally of Kadyrov, will retain the influence in the Government, which he used to have as the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic (Kommersant, Interfax).