2 juni 2003
- Media on EU-Russia summit: The first TV reports on the EU-Russia summit were nearly triumphant and hailed a breakthrough on the issue of visa-free travel. Later TV comments were more moderate but still positive with the focus on the friendly atmosphere at the summit. The Moscow Times comments in an article entitled “Putin seals a victory or two with EU” that the EU-Russia summit “may have been short on results but allowed Putin to score all the minor diplomatic victories he had hoped for: greater cooperation with the EU, virtually no criticism about Chechnya and a promise for further talks on visa-free travel”. Nezavisimaya gazeta points to the vague wording of the visa-free regime paragraph in the joint communiqué stressing that “the doors to Europe remain locked”. The article in Nezavisimaya gazeta is entitled “Schengen wall instead of a window to Europe” (See Articles on the EU in Russian newspapers).
- Kadyrov offers remuneration for information about Maskhadov’s whereabouts: Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov has offered a large prize for information about the whereabouts of Chechen separatist leader Maskhadov. Kadyrov promised that the money “would be enough for the children and grandchildren of those who say where the former Ichkerian president is” (Kommersant, Interfax, Vremya novostei, Gazeta).
- Bomb blast in Chechnya claims three lives: On Friday, Chechen rebels exploded a passenger bus in Grozny. Three people were killed and more than ten injured (All media).
- All leading dailies carry articles today commenting on the EU-Russia summit. According to Gazeta, the summit did not bring about any sensational results. The Moscow Times informs that the EU-Russia summit “may have been short on results but allowed Putin to score all the minor diplomatic victories he had hoped for: greater cooperation with the EU, virtually no criticism about Chechnya and a promise for further talks on visa-free travel”. Vremya novostei notes that the final communiqué targets the development of relations on an absolutely new basis, stressing, however, that the goals put forward in St Petersburg are hardly attainable. Nezavisimaya gazeta points to the vague wording of the visa-free regime paragraph in the joint communiqué stressing that “the doors to Europe remain locked”. Vedomosti notes that the facilitation of the visa regime with Russia is currently not a priority for the EU and calls for unilateral steps by Russia in this respect. The Moscow Times reports about the discussions of the Chechen issue at the summit noting that the European Union welcomed moves by Moscow to find a political solution to the war in Chechnya and condemned violence in the republic, but did not specifically address allegations of brutality by Russian soldiers against Chechen civilians.
3 juni 2003
- Presidential elections in Chechnya to be held already in October-November?: Kommersant quotes Federation Council member Zabgayev as saying that presidential elections in Chechnya might be held already in October – November, while the treaty on delimitation of powers between the federal centre and the republic could be signed soon after the elections – in the first decade of December. According to the daily, such an early date for Chechen elections significantly increases the chances of Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov to become the Chechen President (Kommersant).
- 2,500 refugees returned to Chechnya in 2003: According to the Federal Migration Service, more than 2,500 refugees have returned from Ingush tent camps to Chechnya since the beginning of 2003, and the recent terrorist attacks in Chechnya have not slowed down the return process. Interfax reports that tent camps in Ingushetia continue to be home to 14,700 Chechen refugees (Interfax).
4 juni 2003
- Kadyrov dismisses Chechen cabinet: Yesterday Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov signed a decree dismissing the Chechen cabinet as well as local administrators throughout the region. Prime Minister Popov retained his post and was instructed by Kadyrov to name candidates for a new Cabinet in two weeks. Popov described the cabinet dismissal as a technical move intended to bring its structure in compliance with the Chechen constitution. However, according to Kommersant, Kadyrov will use this opportunity to get rid of some officials who are not loyal to him. Rossiyskaya gazeta reports about the issue in an article entitled “Constitutional mop-up” (All media).
- Discovered Maskhadov’s archives shed light on his financial support to terrorist attacks: All media report that federal forces have discovered the largest of Maskhadov’s archives since the beginning of the second campaign in Chechnya. Some of the documents dating back to his Chechen presidency in 1999 reveal that finances allocated from the Russian budget for healthcare programmes, pensions and other social purposes were misused. According to one of the documents, warlord Basayev received $700,000 from Maskhadov on the eve of a rebel attack on Dagestan. Rossiyskaya gazeta reports about the issue in an article entitled “Terrorist acts were paid by children allowances” (All media).
- The Moscow Times publishes comments by Mikhail Margelov, head of Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, on St Petersburg Summits, including the EU-Russia Summit. Margelov notes that “Russia’s relations with the EU not only do not conflict with its relations with the United States, they are in fact complementary”. He also voices hope that after the recent round of meetings and summits, Moscow’s European partners will be able to devote more attention to their relations with Russia. Margelov assesses as “a step in the right direction” the EU’s position on Chechnya as expressed by Greek Prime Minister Simitis. The comment is entitled “Summit season of content”.
5 juni 2003
- Duma approves Chechen amnesty in second reading: Yesterday the State Duma approved a resolution on Chechen amnesty in the second reading extending the disarmament deadline to 1 September but rejecting an amendment spreading amnesty to those living outside Chechnya. The Duma also kept the provision denying amnesty to rebels who have tried to kill federal police and servicemen. The final, third, reading is scheduled for Friday. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the amnesty resolution may come into effect as early as next Saturday (if published in the press) (All media).
- Reshuffling in Chechen administration: Kommersant reports that Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov replaced Grozny Mayor Zhidkov by Khozha-Akhmed Arsanov. According to the daily, Federal Minister for Chechnya Ilyasov admitted that Zhidkov was forced to resign calling this replacement a mistake. Kommersant anticipates further reshuffling on the district level, which might meet with resistance of some local leaders (Kommersant).
6 juni 2003
- Terrorist act in North Ossetia claims 19 lives: 19 people died and 12 were injured when a bus carrying servicemen and personnel from the Mozdok airbase was blown up by a female suicide bomber in North Ossetia yesterday. This is already the third suicide attack in the Caucasus in less than a month. The Chechen Interior Ministry said that Chechen warlords were behind the attack. Gazeta notes that it could be an act of revenge against Mozdok pilots who bombed rebel camps. Interfax quotes FSB spokesman Ignatchenko as saying that Chechen separatist leader Maskhadov was aware of the planning and preparations for the terrorist act in Mozdok (All media).
- Human rights ombudsman presents annual report: (i) Interfax reports that yesterday human rights ombudsman Mironov presented his 2002 report about the human rights situation in Russia. Mironov voiced particular concern over the disappearance of Chechen residents in sweep operations. The report also covers human rights violations in penitentiaries as well as regarding migration, citizenship and service in the armed forces. (ii) Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that on 22 June, the State Duma will appoint a new human rights ombudsman. According to the daily, Mironov sharply criticized his major competitor Krasheninnikov saying that he had contributed to degrading the official role of a human rights ombudsman in Russia (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
9 juni 2003
- Chechen amnesty comes into effect: On Friday, the State Duma endorsed an amnesty in connection with the approval of the constitution of Chechnya. The proposal, submitted by President Putin, was supported in a 325-25 vote. The amnesty became effective on Saturday morning. Rossiyskaya gazeta, Vremya novostei and Interfax report about the first rebel surrendering weapons upon amnesty. Interfax quotes presidential aide Yastrzhembsky as saying that the amnesty may apply to over 200 Chechen rebels currently serving prison terms or expecting trial. According to the results of a recent opinion poll quoted by Interfax, 46% of Russians disapproved the amnesty, while 30% supported it. Nezavisimaya gazeta notes that the military are not optimistic about the future results of the amnesty and are likely to postpone plans on the pullout of troops from Chechnya. The daily even predicts the imminent deployment of additional military contingents in the republic. However, according to General Staff’s first deputy commander Baluyevsky quoted by Interfax, the pullout plans will be implemented (All media).
- Serious clashes in Chechnya’s Argun: The approval of Chechen amnesty by the Duma on Friday coincided with what Vremya novostei calls “this year’s most serious clashes” between the federal forces and rebels. During the clashes, which lasted for more than 24 hours, five federal servicemen were killed, including Chechnya’s deputy military commandant. According to Vremya novostei, 14 out of some 30 attackers were killed (All media).
10 juni 2003
- First Chechen rebels surrender weapons: According to a representative of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Chechnya department, 28 Chechen militants decided to take advantage of the amnesty and voluntarily surrendered their weapons yesterday. The FSB official stated that the former members of militant groups “would be checked for possible involvement in grave crimes”. (All media)
- Hearings on Zakayev’s extradition to Russia: Media report that during the hearings on the extradition of Chechen emissary Zakayev to Russia that started yesterday in London, he was charged with 13 counts of murders, terrorism and hostage taking. (All media)
- New appointments in Chechnya’s Government: Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov appointed yesterday six new ministers of the Chechen Government, all of them members of the former Cabinet dismissed last week. (Kommersant)
11 juni 2003
- Russia ready to cooperate with Poland in Iraq: Following talks with President Kwasniewski of Poland yesterday in Warsaw, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Rushailo pointed out that Russia is ready to cooperate with Polish force in Iraq by sharing experience gained by Russia in Chechnya and Afghanistan. He reiterated, however, Russia’s line that the war in Iraq was a mistake. (RIAN, Kommersant, MT)
12 juni 2003
- Day of Russia celebrated today: Russians celebrate the Day of Russia, a national holiday, today. Interfax reports that according to a recent opinion poll held by VTSIOM, 65% of Russians do not know the correct name of the holiday – the Day of the Proclamation of Russia’s State Sovereignty (marked as Day of Russia since 2002). The poll also showed that attitudes towards Russian sovereignty have improved over the past two years – in 2001, 49% thought that sovereignty has done only harm to Russia, while in the recent poll this figure dropped to 34%. ITAR-TASS reports about increased security measures during the celebrations of the holiday in Chechnya (All electronic media).
- 35 Chechen rebels surrender arms under amnesty: Interfax quotes spokesman of FSB department for Chechnya as saying that 35 people have surrendered arms under amnesty in Chechnya. This regards rebels who personally submitted amnesty applications (Interfax).
- 100 refugees ready to return to Chechnya from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge: Interfax quotes Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Brazhnikov as saying that almost 100 refugees have expressed their readiness to return to Chechnya from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. According to Brazhnikov, the number of people willing to return to Chechnya is constantly growing.
- Kadyrov’s son faces charges of hooliganism: Yesterday the son of Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov, Zelimkhan, was charged with hooliganism. On 6 June, he was detained in Kislovodsk (Stavropol region) after a scuffle with local police. According to NTV reports, he may be sentenced to up to 7 years of imprisonment (NTV, TVS).
16 juni 2003
- EP delegation visits Chechnya: Interfax reported on Friday about EP plans to send a delegation on a fact-finding visit to Chechnya on 14-18 June. Reino Paasilinna of Finland heads the delegation (Interfax).
- High-profile court hearings this week: (i) On 17 June, a Moscow court will hear the case of Zaurbek Talkhigov suspected of being an accomplice of the Dubrovka theatre hostage takers. Kommersant quotes the mother of Talkhigov as saying that her son “is a victim of anti-Chechen euphoria” (Kommersant). (ii) On 18 June, a court in the Saratov region will consider a release on parole of Eduard Limonov, National Bolshevik leader (Kommersant).
- Upcoming events: (i) On 17 June, St Petersburg will host the 7th Economic Forum. PM Kasyanov will open the Forum (Kommersant). (ii) On 20 June, Putin will hold a press conference for about 600 Russian and international journalists in the Kremlin (Kommersant). (iii) On 21 June, the first meeting of Chechen State Council will be held (Kommersant). (iv) On 21 June, the State Duma will hold its last plenary session before the summer recess (Kommersant).
17 juni 2003
- Command of anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya to be transferred to Interior Ministry starting 1 September: Chechen Military Commandant Abrashin said yesterday that the command of the Russian Combined Federal Forces in the North Caucasus would be transferred from the FSB to the Interior Ministry starting 1 September this year. The transfer of the command will begin on 1 July. A decision has also been made to move from antiterrorist operation methods to measures for maintaining law and order (Interfax, Gazeta, The Moscow Times, Izvestia, Vremya novostei).
- EP delegation visits Chechnya: A delegation of the European Parliament arrived in Grozny yesterday to investigate the situation in the region. Interfax reports about the delegation’s meetings with Chechen Prime Minister Popov and Chechen Prosecutor Kravchenko. A meeting with Federal Minister for Chechnya Ilyasov is scheduled for today. Interfax quotes head of EP delegation Paasilinna as saying that he has seen positive changes in the republic and that military action there is decreasing. Summing up his impressions about the meeting with the EP delegation, PM Popov said that there were no differences in the approaches to the problems discussed, including the restoration of order in Chechnya, the return of refugees and their employment (Interfax, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- 500 people rally in Moscow to protest Chechen war: Yesterday some 500 people rallied in the centre of Moscow calling for an end to the Chechen war and demanding that Russian journalists take a more critical line on the war. The Moscow Times notes that “despite the small turnout, organizers insisted that the majority of Russians are opposed to the war in Chechnya (The Moscow Times).
18 juni 2003
- Controversial reports on transfer of command of anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya to Interior Ministry: In an article entitled “FSB not to leave Chechnya” Kommersant casts doubts on yesterday’s reports about the planned transfer of the command of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya from the FSB to the Interior Ministry starting 1 September. The daily quotes deputy presidential envoy in the southern federal district Peshkhoyev as saying that no such decisions have been taken. According to FSB sources also quoted by the paper a legal basis and mechanisms for such a transfer will be worked out by 1 September. However, Deputy Interior Minister Vasilyev said to Interfax that “the entire process of transfer is planned to be completed by 1 September” (Kommersant, Interfax).
- RIA NOVOSTI reports that the European Commission has allocated 16.5 million euros for Chechen humanitarian relief. The donation will be distributed among the poorest in Chechnya’s centre and south and refugees putting up in the neighbouring Ingushetia and Daghestan. The new aid allocation is also mentioned by The Moscow Times.
19 juni 2003
- EP delegation comments on visit to Chechnya: Several media report about the press conference by the EP delegation on their trip to Chechnya transmitted at the EC Delegation in Russia. Delegation head Paasilinna praised Russian choice of a political path to settle the situation in the republic, according to Interfax. Meanwhile Paasilinna said that many of those he talked to were dissatisfied with the constitutional referendum. The Moscow Times notes that Paasilinna focused both on the first signs of recovery in the republic and on persisting problems, including referendum flaws and kidnappings. Izvestia points to diverging assessments of the situation in Chechnya by delegation members stressing that the viewpoint by Bart Staes was the most categorical (Interfax, Izvestia, The Moscow Times).
- Duma passed amendments on budget spending: Yesterday the Duma passed amendments to the budget for 2003 which allocate an additional 5.5 billion roubles for the housing and communal services sector and 13.6 billion for the construction of housing in Chechnya. (Izvestiya)
- Izvestia, The Moscow Times and Interfax report about the visit of EP delegation to Chechnya.
20 juni 2003
- Chechnya to hold presidential elections in October: Chechen Administration head Kadyrov said yesterday that Chechnya will hold presidential elections in October and the parliament will be elected by the end of this year. Kadyrov noted that Putin would soon issue a decree setting the exact date of the vote (The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei).
- New Ingush PM appointed: Yesterday the Ingush parliament approved the appointment of a new Ingush Prime Minister – Timur Mogushkov who held the post of deputy Prime Minister during the last three years. According to Kommersant, the new Prime Minister mentioned accelerated industrial growth and return of Chechen refugees as the main priorities of his Cabinet (Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
- New terrorist act in North Ossetia claims three lives: Yesterday a landmine detonated under a police bus in North Ossetia killing three and injuring up to ten servicemen. The Moscow Times quotes Deputy Prosecutor Fridinsky as saying that most likely the explosion is not connected with events in Chechnya (Interfax, The Moscow Times, Gazeta).
23 juni 2003
- Putin expects breakthroughs from state visit to Britain: Tomorrow President Putin will begin a state visit to Britain. Interfax reports that in an interview with BBC ahead of the visit Putin said that all members of the Russian delegation expect new breakthroughs at the political level and in the economic area. He also confirmed that Russia seeks more extensive cooperation with NATO, the EU and wants to join the WTO. Izvestia notes that the state visit to Britain is another step of international recognition for Putin. However, the daily also points to growing pre-visit British criticism of Russia due to the conflict in Chechnya. Vremya novostei reports that the mere fact of an invitation for a state visit is an important achievement for Putin and new Russia (Interfax, Izvestia, Vremya novostei, The Moscow Times, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
- Terrorist act in Chechnya injures 41: Forty-one people were injured as a result of a terrorist attack in Grozny on Friday. Two suicide bombers were killed. A truck packed with explosives was heading towards the barracks of a special operations police unit but explosives detonated before they reached destination. Vremya novostei recalls that it was already the fourth terrorist bombing in the last two months (All media).
- Chechen State Council holds first meeting: On Saturday, the pro-Kadyrov Chechen State Council composed of representatives of all Chechen districts and viewed as a pre-parliament held its first meeting in Grozny. The Council elected its chairman – head of the Chechen branch of Russia’s Property Ministry Isayev who, according to Izvestia, immediately declared that Chechen Administration Head Kadyrov is the only real candidate for the Chechen President. The Council is to prepare the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Chechnya and to develop a draft agreement on delimitation of powers with the federal centre (Kommersant, Izvestia, Interfax, Vremya novostei).
- Draft agreement on delimitation of powers with federal centre published in Chechnya: On 21 June, Chechen media published a draft agreement on delimitation of powers between Chechnya and the federal centre. Nezavisimaya gazeta qualifies the published document as “another ultimatum of Kadyrov to Moscow”. According to the daily, the draft agreement envisages priority of regional legislation over federal laws. However, according to Vremya novostei, the formal status of the published document is unclear, as the commission working on the agreement has not completed its work as yet (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
- Accomplice in autumn hostage crisis sentenced to 8.5 years: On Friday, the Moscow City Court found Zaurbek Talkhigov guilty of complicity with Chechen hostage takers at the Dubrovka theatre, and sentenced him to 8.5 years of imprisonment. Investigators have established that during the hostage crisis Talkhigov contacted terrorist leader Barayev on the phone and informed him about the whereabouts of police near the Dubrovka theatre (All media).
24 juni 2003
- Media comment on Kadyrov-drafted agreement on delimitation of powers: Today’s dailies continue to comment on the Kadyrov-drafted agreement on delimitation of powers between the federal centre and Chechnya recently published in the Chechen press. Gazeta notes that the draft agreement provides for the republic’s ownership of its natural resources, including oil and gas, which is in contradiction with the Russian Constitution. According to Vremya novostei, Kadyrov believes that the agreement can be signed already in September, prior to the presidential elections in the republic.
25 juni 2003
- New PACE rapporteur on Chechnya appointed: Yesterday PACE’s political committee appointed Andreas Gross, a Swiss socialist, as a new rapporteur on Chechnya replacing Lord Judd. Interfax quotes head of Duma’s International Affairs Committee Rogozin describing Gross as a tough person who does not allow to be manipulated. “Let there be criticism but it should be unbiased”, he said. Rogozin expects Gross to arrive in Moscow for brief meetings in early July. Kommersant and Vremya MN also report that PACE decided to establish the post of public prosecutor for human rights who, among other issues, would monitor the human rights situation in Chechnya (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Kommersant, Vremya MN, Izvestia).
26 juni 2003
- Putin visits Edinburgh, confirms commitment to cooperation with EU: During his state visit to Britain, President Putin visited Edinburgh yesterday. Meeting with local politicians, business figures and academics, he called on British investors to step up their involvement in Russia stressing that it “now offers immense opportunities”. He also commented on the prospects of EU-Russia relations saying that Russia is not seeking full-fledged membership in the EU but is interested in the expansion of cooperation with Europe. The President confirmed commitment to a common economic space and called for elimination of all barriers standing in the way of people’s contacts. All media note a sumptuous royal welcome extended to Putin during the first two days of the visit. Today Putin will take part in the Russian-British energy forum described by Izvestia as the main event of the summit. Vremya novostei points to the positive atmosphere of the visit stressing that the fears about an excessive focus of British politicians and the press on the Chechen issue did not come true (All media).
- Chechen State Council proposes holding presidential elections in October: Yesterday the Chechen State Council addressed President Putin with a request to hold Chechen presidential elections already in October 2003. The State Council stresses that the earliest creation of constitutional bodies in Chechnya will promote political stabilization in the republic (Vremya novostei, Interfax, Izvestia).
- CoE experts may resume work in Chechnya soon: Interfax quotes Council of Europe Secretary General Schwimmer as saying that CoE experts will soon resume their work in Chechnya. Schwimmer said that Foreign Minister Ivanov had agreed to the extension of the experts’ mandate.
27 juni 2003
- UN blacklists Chechen separatist: On 25 June, the UN Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee approved Russia’s proposal to put Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, Chechen separatist leader, on its blacklist. Interfax quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko as saying that “the ruling binds UN member countries to freeze Yandarbiyev’s financial assets and to prohibit him from travelling with the exception of trips to his native country” (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
30 juni 2003
- Upcoming events: (i) Today Iranian Vice President for Atomic Energy Agazadeh will arrive in Moscow on a working visit (Interfax). (ii) Today a London court will restart the consideration of Russia’s request for extradition of Chechen separatist emissary Zakayev (Kommersant). (iii) On 1 July, the State Committee on Drug Control formally begins its activities (Kommersant). (iv) On 2 July, Foreign Minister Ivanov leaves for Budapest on a working visit (Kommersant). (v) On 3 July, Romanian President Iliescu arrives in Moscow for an official visit (Kommersant, Izvestia). (vi) On 9-10 July, PACE rapporteur for Chechnya Gross will visit Russia (Interfax).