Persoverzicht Tsjetsjenië - Juni 2004

1 juni 2004

- PACE rapporteurs to study situation in Chechnya: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteurs, Rudolf Bindig and Andreas Gross, who arrived in Moscow yesterday, are expected to study the situation in Chechnya following the death of its President Akhmat Kadyrov. The rapporteurs will visit Grozny and Nazran. According to the Head of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, there was a preliminary agreement that the rapporteurs would also come to Russia in late August after the Chechen presidential election (Interfax).

- Putin congratulates Chechens with football victory: Meeting with the players of the Chechen football team Terek, which won the Russia Cup, President Putin called their victory a “symbol of Chechnya’s revival”. Putin is quoted as saying that “everything that has happened over this time is of course amazing and very pleasant”. Nezavisimaya gazeta (front page) describes yesterday’s meeting as an attempt by the Kremlin to use the victory of the Chechen football club for “propaganda of the peace process in Chechnya” (All media).

- Duma deputy Yamadayev, a likely presidential candidate in Chechnya: Gazeta reports in a front-page article entitled “A guarantor of Kadyrov’s order” that a group of Chechen ministers and public figures have supported the nomination of Duma deputy Ruslan Yamadayev as a candidate in the 29 August presidential election in the Republic. In the paper’s view, the possible nomination of Yamadayev is an attempt of supporters of the late Chechen President Kadyrov to keep their power in Chechnya (Gazeta).

- Elder son of the late Chechen President, Zelimkhan, dies at 30: The late Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov’s elder son, the 30-year-old Zelimkhan, died yesterday apparently due to a heart weakness. Interfax reports that law enforcement agencies see no criminal motives behind his death (All media).

- Representative of Chechen separatists in Georgia poisoned: Kommersant reports that Hizri Aldamov, a representative of Chechen separatists in Georgia who is believed to have financed rebel groups in Chechnya, was hospitalised with symptoms of severe poisoning in Tbilisi. According to the daily, the poisoning could be caused by phosphorus allegedly spread in Aldamov’s car. The paper also quotes an aide of Aldamov as saying that Russian special forces could be involved in the incident (Kommersant).

2 juni 2004

- Kremlin to support Alu Alkhanov in Chechen presidential election?: According to Kommersant, the Kremlin has decided to support the candidacy of Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov in the 29 August presidential election in the Republic. The daily reports that Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of the late Chechen President, who cannot take part in the election due to age qualifications, proposed Alkhanov’s candidacy to President Putin on 22 May, and Putin has allegedly promised his support. In the paper’s view, the enhanced attention given by federal TV channels to Alu Alkhanov is further confirmation of this information (Kommersant).

- NTV anchorman fired for violating contract: Radio station Ekho Moskvy has reported today that NTV anchorman Leonid Parfyonov was fired for violating his contract, which stipulates that he must “support the policies of the channel’s leadership”. Parfyonov had passed over to Kommersant (Monday issue) for publication the full text of a written instruction issued by NTV acting Director General, Alexander Gerasimov, ordering to exclude an interview with the widow of Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who was assassinated in Qatar, from Parfyonov’s prime-time programme “Namedni”. Izvestia has published a front-page interview with Leonid Parfyonov, who voices his disagreement with the channel’s information policies (Ekho Moskvy, Izvestia, Gazeta, Kommersant).

- First train from Grozny arrives in Moscow: All media report that the first passenger train arrived in Moscow from Chechnya’s capital Grozny yesterday. Interfax notes that it cost Russian railways about three billion roubles (over €85 million) to restore rail links in Chechnya. Kommersant reports on the issue in an article entitled “Train from Grozny was met with dogs” (All media).

3 juni 2004

- Media comment on cancelling of Namedni programme: The cancellation of the NTV weekly current affairs programme Namedni and the dismissal of its host Leonid Parfyonov, named by Izvestia as one of the brightest personalities and even “an absolute leader” of Russian television, continue to draw the attention of the Russian press. Parfyonov unleashed a public scandal by releasing to Kommersant an internal memo ordering him to cut an interview with the widow of a Chechen separatist leader. Interfax quotes the Head of the Russian Union of Journalists, Igor Yakovenko, as saying that Parfyonov’s dismissal is as revolutionary and momentous an event as the assassinations of journalists Dmitry Kholodov in 1994 and Vladislav Listyev in 1995, and the closure of TVS television in 2003. Vedomosti (front page) stresses that journalists and politicians assessed Parfyonov’s dismissal as another setback to freedom of the press in Russia. Parfyonov comments in a front-page interview with Vremya novostei that the cancellation of Namedni may become the first step towards a change in the channel’s format, and NTV may turn into a purely entertainment channel in the near future. Izvestia reports on the issue in a front-page article entitled “I realised that this would happen sooner or later” (All media).

- Villagers ask Chechen Interior Minister to run for presidency: Kommersant reports under the headline “Village residents support the Kremlin’s choice” that a public assembly held in the Chechen village of Meken Yurt called on the Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov to run for the Chechen President. The daily highlights that by organising the nomination by a village of which Alkhanov is not a native, the Chechen authorities wanted to underline that he enjoys republic-wide support. Interfax reports that the possibility of representatives from international organisations being present at the election was discussed at yesterday’s meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Razov and visiting PACE rapporteurs Rudolf Bindig and Andreas Gross (Kommersant, Interfax).

4 juni 2004

- First major candidate steps into Chechen presidential race: Malik Saidullayev, a wealthy Moscow-based lotteries businessman, formally informed the Chechen Election Commission about his intention to take part in the 29 August presidential election in Chechnya. Kommersant recalls that Saidullayev was a major rival of Akhmat Kadyrov in the 2003 presidential election but the Chechen Supreme Court withdrew him from the race. Echoing Kommersant’s publication on Monday, a front-page article in Gazeta points to the high probability that the Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov will win the election. “Experts call Alkhanov a man of compromise who fits well into the role of a ‘new Kadyrov’”, stresses Gazeta (Kommersant, Gazeta, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei).

- First major candidate steps into Chechen presidential race: Malik Saidullayev, a wealthy Moscow-based lotteries businessman, formally informed the Chechen Election Commission about his intention to take part in the 29 August presidential election in Chechnya. Kommersant recalls that Saidullayev was a major rival of Akhmat Kadyrov in the 2003 presidential election but the Chechen Supreme Court withdrew him from the race. Echoing Kommersant’s publication on Monday, a front-page article in Gazeta points to the high probability that the Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov will win the election. “Experts call Alkhanov a man of compromise who fits well into the role of a ‘new Kadyrov’”, stresses Gazeta (Kommersant, Gazeta, The Moscow Times, Vremya novostei).

- Rostov-on-Don court resumes hearings of Chechen civilians murder case: Kommersant reports that a Rostov-on-Don military court resumed hearings on the murder of three Chechen civilians by two Interior Ministry officers, Evgeny Khudyakov and Sergey Arakcheyev. The daily notes that a former subordinate of the officers confirmed their involvement in the crime at yesterday’s hearing (Kommersant).

7 juni 2004

- Bomb explosion in Samara market claims 10 lives: A bomb explosion in a Samara market on Friday claimed the lives of ten people and left about 40 others wounded. Kommersant reports that investigators have not excluded the possibility that the explosion “could have been staged by Chechen terrorists” but are focusing on the theory that it was a business-related crime (All media).

- PACE rapporteur points to “duality” of situation in Chechnya: Nezavisimaya gazeta has published a front-page interview with PACE rapporteur Rudolf Bindig who has recently visited Chechnya together with Andreas Gross. The interview is entitled “There will be no normal elections in Chechnya”. In particular, Bindig points to the “duality” of the situation in the North Caucasus – on the one hand, there is some progress in such spheres as education and public health; on the other hand, there is a “huge problem” of security and human rights in the region (Nezavisimaya gazeta).

- Russian citizens form the largest group of asylum seekers: According to the spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, some 7,500 Russian citizens – mainly Chechens – sought asylum in the first three months of 2003, thereby making Russian citizens the largest group seeking asylum in developed countries. The Moscow Times highlights that more than half of the Russian asylum claims were made in just five countries – Austria, Poland, The Czech Republic, France and Germany (The Moscow Times, Kommersant).

8 juni 2004

- Ramzan Kadyrov gives Chechen rebels three days to lay down arms: Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister and the son of the late Chechen President, said yesterday on local television that members of illegal armed formations have three days to lay down arms, adding that otherwise they will be killed, as the period of amnesty given to them has been adequate. According to Kommersant, representatives of Chechen separatists interpreted Kadyrov’s ultimatum as a PR move in the run up to the presidential election. Vremya novostei reports on the issue in an article entitled “Amnesty is over” (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Interfax).

- Chechen authorities say they are ready to help humanitarian groups: According to Interfax, Chechen Security Council Secretary, Rudnik Dudayev, said at a meeting yesterday with a delegation of the UN World Food Programme in Grozny that the Chechen authorities have promised to help humanitarian organisations working in the Republic. He denied any plans to interfere with their activities (Interfax).

9 juni 2004

- Qatari Court to rule on the case of two Russians on 30 June: The Qatari Court hearing the case of two Russians accused of organising the assassination of former Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev has scheduled the pronouncement of its verdict for 30 June. Kommersant notes that it will be the last day of the Court’s work before a two-month summer recess, and the timing is probably not accidental. In the paper’s view, the two Russians are likely to be found guilty, and a court of appeals will be able to consider the case only in the autumn when public interest in the process is no longer so high. In the paper’s view, this is an indication that the defendants will finally be acquitted. Gazeta also believes that there will be an acquittal, but due to the failure of the prosecutors yesterday to disprove the facts presented by the defence in late May. Izvestia is, however, less optimistic. According to the daily, if the Qatari court finds the two Russians guilty, only Yandarbiyev’s widow and son will have the power to pardon them, which is highly problematic. Izvestia, Kommersant and Gazeta run the story on their front pages (All media).

- Last refugee camp in Ingushetia closed: Gazeta reports in a front-page article that the last tented camp for Chechen refugees in Ingushetia has been closed. The daily claims that the refugees were “forced” to leave the camp, and their return home “was not a happy one” as the living conditions in temporary settlements in Chechnya are not different from the conditions they used to have in Ingushetia. Moreover, many of the refugees “are prepared to live elsewhere”, rather than in Chechnya (Gazeta).

10 juni 2004

- Chechen compensation committee dissolved for corruption: Acting Chechen President Sergey Abramov dissolved the Chechen government’s committee on compensations for lost housing and dismissed its head, Abubakhir Baibatyrov. Kommersant reports that people had to pay up to 50% of the compensation amount in bribes. Moreover, it had become clear that the committee is not capable of meeting the end of the year deadline for compensation payments set by President Putin, as only around 2,000 out of 40,000 people have received compensations so far, says the daily. It was decided that the Chechen Finance Minister would monitor the payment of compensations (Kommersant, Interfax).

11 juni 2004

- Chechen Interior Minister likely favourite in Republic’s presidential election: Several media outlets report that Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov is likely to become the front-runner in the Republic’s presidential election on 29 August. Nearly everybody, who spoke in the native village of the Kadyrov family, Tsentoroi, at the wake for Zelimkhan Kadyrov, son of the late Chechen President, called on Alkhanov to run in the election. Moreover, State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov has announced plans to support Alu Alkhanov as a presidential candidate (Vremya novostei, Interfax, Kommersant, The Moscow Times).

- Moscow objects to Zakayev’s meetings in Norway: A statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry says that Moscow is surprised about Chechen rebel emissary Akhmed Zakayev’s visit to Norway and his meetings with government officials. “Zakayev’s invitation must be the result of someone’s desire to ‘balance’ the obvious favourable tendencies in the Russian-Norwegian political dialogue”, says the statement. Kommersant reports on the issue in an article entitled “Refugee Zakayev moved to Norway in order to spoil Russian-Norwegian relations” (Interfax).

- Suspects in 9 May Grozny terrorist act arrested: According to Deputy Prosecutor General Sergey Fridinsky quoted by Nezavisimaya gazeta, two suspects in the organisation of the 9 May terrorist act in Grozny were arrested. Fridinsky did not disclose the names of the suspects but said that they are residents of Chechnya aged 22 and 28 (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kommersant, Izvestia).

- Bombing in Samara market solved: Vremya novostei reports that law enforcement agencies have completed the investigation of a recent bombing in the Samara market that claimed the lives of 11 people. Five Chechens, who possessed explosives identical to those used in the bombing, have been arrested. Kommersant reports that the Chechen community of Samara has sent a letter to President Putin protesting against mass detentions and arrests of Chechens after the bombing (Vremya novostei, Kommersant).

15 juni 2004

- Chechen interior minister still undecided about presidential race?: In an interview with Interfax yesterday, Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov underlined that he has not yet made a final decision on whether to run in Chechnya’s 29 August early presidential elections, adding that he “has received several thousands letters asking him to join the presidential race”. However, in an interview with Rossiya TV channel, which also took place yesterday, Alkhanov, announced his readiness to run. According to Kommersant, Alkhanov’s candidacy has been already approved by President Putin. (Interfax, Kommersnat, Izvestia, Ekho Moskvy)

16 juni 2004

- Putin supports Alkhanov’s candidacy for Chechen presidency: At a meeting with President Putin yesterday in the Kremlin, Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov announced that he would run in the 29 August Chechen presidential elections to replace the assassinated President Akhmat Kadyrov. Alkhanov noted that the Chechen people “want a continuation of the course of the federal government and the course of Akhmat Kadyrov” and that he “can probably pursue this line”. He also stated that he has taken leave from his post to take part in the election campaign. Putin pointed out that Alkhanov “has managed to bring order to the republic and at the same time treat people with solicitousness”, clearly indicating that he favours Alkhanov as the presidential candidate in Chechnya. (All media)

- Moscow criticises Norway for allowing Chechen emissary free entry: In a special statement yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret that the Norwegian authorities “had okayed the arrival in their country of the representative of Chechen terrorists, Akhmed Zakayev”.

17 juni 2004

- Chechen elections: 11 candidates file bids; FSB colonel to run: (i) According to the Deputy Chairman of the Chechen Elections Commission Arsakhanov, the Commission has received notifications from 11 candidates wishing to run in the 29 August Chechen presidential elections. None of them have yet submitted signature lists. (ii) Movsar Khamidov, a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) colonel, announced yesterday that he has decided to run for Chechen president. (iii) Alexander Veshnyakov, Chairman of Russian Central Elections Commission (CEC), stated yesterday that the registration of Chechen presidential candidates is underway and will continue until 14 July. (Interfax, NG, Izvestia)

- Chechen warlord Basayev in Europe?: Referring to operation information, Taus Dzhabrailov, Head of the Chechen State Council, stated that one of the Chechen separatist leaders Basayev was moved to a European country last September “in connection with a sharp decline in his health”. (Rossiyskaya gazeta, Izvestia)

18 juni 2004

- European Court of HR to hear complaints from Chechnya: Interfax reports that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hold hearings this autumn to consider 6 complaints from Chechen residents who suffered during the Chechen campaigns. (Interfax)

- Chechen elections: another candidate to run: The Chechen Elections Commission yesterday received an official notification from Abdula Bugauyev, former Chechen 1st Vice-Premier in the pro-Kremlin Cabinet of Doku Zavgayev, about his intention to run for Chechen president. (Interfax, Kommersant)

21 juni 2004

- Putin’s advisor on Chechnya calls for reduction of troops in Chechnya: The media quote the presidential advisor on Chechnya, Aslambek Aslakhanov, as saying that the situation in Chechnya allows for the withdrawal of unnecessary federal forces from the Republic. He also noted that more law enforcement functions should be delegated to regional law enforcement agencies (Interfax, The Moscow Times).

- Maskhadov: rebels to embark on an offensive: Kommersant reports on a recent statement made by Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, according to whom rebels intend to embark on an offensive against the federal forces. The daily recalls that Maskhadov has already made similar statements before. In particular, his similar statement in 2002 preceded a series of bombings in Russian cities (Kommersant).

22 juni 2004

- About 200 Chechen rebels attack Ingushetia: Interfax reports that about 200 Chechen rebels carried out attacks in several Ingush cities last night. According to the latest reports, 40 people were killed. Among those wounded was the acting Interior Minister of Ingushetia, Abukar Kostoyev, who later died in hospital, according to Itar-Tass. Interfax quotes Ingush President Murat Zyazikov as saying that there were casualties among both law-enforcement officers and civilians. According to the Ingush Federal Security Service Directorate, the firefight in the Ingush capital Nazran is still under way. The building of the Republic’s Interior Ministry has been partially destroyed and is on fire. Chechen authorities have been taking measures to strengthen the administrative border with Ingushetia (All electronic media).

23 juni 2004

- Rebel attacks in Ingushetia claims at least 57 lives: According to Umarbek Galayev, the acting Ingush Prosecutor, the attacks carried out by a group of Chechen rebels in Ingushetia on Monday night and Tuesday morning claimed at least 57 lives. 47 of them were officers from law enforcement agencies, and a UN official was also killed. He also said that 50 people had been wounded but this number was unconfirmed. The rebels attacked about 15 targets across the republic, including the Ingush Interior Ministry’s headquarters and other buildings in Nazran, and an arms depot. Interfax quotes Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov as saying that Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov may have been involved in the attacks. Some media outlets recall that Maskhadov warned of a planned offensive last Sunday (All media).

- Media comment on rebel attacks in Ingushetia: All major Russian dailies run the story about rebel attacks in Ingushetia on their front pages. In Gazeta’s view, the rebel attacks in Ingushetia can be compared in scale and impudence to the raids on Buddyonnovsk and Kizlyar, as well as with the rebel intrusion into Dagestan in the autumn of 1999. Kommersant comments that the rebel raids in the republic bordering with Chechnya call into question the efficiency of policies pursued by President Putin not only in Chechnya but also in the North Caucasus as a whole. Novye Izvestia states that rebels had warned of an attack on Ingushetia but they were not heeded. Some of today’s newspaper titles read: “Caught unawares” (Vremya novostei); “Caucasian war is underway” (Kommersant); “Basayev’s breakthrough” (Nezavisimaya gazeta); “Nobody expected intruders” (Nezavisimaya gazeta); “War declared” (Novye Izvestia); “Too early to relax” (Trud); “They even shot at mosques” (Izvestia).

24 juni 2004

- Over 90 killed in attacks on Ingushetia: According to an Ingush government official, 92 people were killed in the recent rebel attacks in Ingushetia. About half of those killed were policemen and servicemen. It is reported that Magomed Yevloyev, the leader of a Wahhabite cell in Ingushetia, led the attacks. Nezavisimaya gazeta (front page) states that most of the rebels were Ingush. Izvestia (front page) highlights that that the attacks have proved the existence of a large, well-armed and well-informed underground bandit group in Ingushetia. Kommersant quotes Chechen Deputy Interior Minister, Ruslan Alkhanov, as saying that it was no secret that rebels used to ‘hole up’ in refugee camps in Ingushetia, and the republic has turned into a ‘recreation resort’ for the bandits. Gazeta (front page) says that a wide-scale assault by the rebels has once again demonstrated that the Russian law enforcement system is still not fully prepared to fight terrorists. Some of today’s newspaper titles read: “The Interior Ministry is not ready to fight terrorism” (Gazeta); “Rebels spoke the Ingush language” (Izvestia); “Ingush wound” (Trud), “Ingush scenario may be repeated” (Vremya novostei).

- Duma member criticises new Amnesty report on Chechnya: Interfax quotes the chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, as calling the recent Amnesty International report on Chechnya as “superficial and biased”. “Unfortunately, the report says nothing to condemn terrorism in Chechnya – the main violation of human rights in that region”, Kosachev said. According to Amnesty International, the situation in Chechnya has not normalised to the degree that it no longer required critical attention from the international community (Interfax, Novye izvestia).

- Paper: election of new CoE Secretary General is good news for Russia: Izvestia reports in an article entitled “Election of new Council of Europe Secretary General is good news for Russia” that the Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe supported the election of Terry Davis (UK) as new CoE Secretary General. In the paper’s view, Moscow likes Terry Davis’ position on the situation of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states (Russians are oppressed) and on Chechnya (much more moderate than that of his predecessor) (Izvestia, Parlamentskaya gazeta).

- Rebels attack Chechen village of Avtury: A group of 20 rebels attacked the Chechen village of Avtury yesterday. An anti-rebel operation is underway, and steps have been taken to seal off the village. There has been no mentioning of casualties among the civilian population or law enforcement officers (Interfax).

25 juni 2004

- Participants in Ingushetia raids are being searched for in refugee camps: Recent rebel raids in Ingushetia continue to draw the attention of the Russian media. According to the latest data, the death toll of the attack has risen to 98, while 104 people were reported wounded. There are 23 civilians among the dead. Izvestia reports that searches are being made for the participants in the raids in refugee camps, and a sweep operation was held in the Chechen refugee camp Altiyevo near Nazran. Gazeta adds that only 23 out of the 60 people detained in the camp were released (All media).

- Alu Alkhanov formally notifies Chechen Election Commission of his intention to run for President: Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov formally notified the Chechen Election Commission of his intention to run for Chechen President. According to Interfax, Alkhanov said yesterday that he would continue the policies of the late Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov on restoring order and reducing the presence of federal troops, while increasing the role of law enforcement agencies. Izvestia reports that support by the Kremlin and by the current leadership of the republic, as well as Alkhanov’s commitment to continue the policies of Akhmat Kadyrov make his election in the first round “almost inevitable” (All media).

28 juni 2004

- Chechen Interior Minister: rebel attacks in Ingushetia organised by Basayev, Maskhadov: The recent rebel attacks in several towns of Ingushetia continue to draw the attention of the Russian media. Interfax quotes Chechen Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov as blaming Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov for masterminding the attacks. In the meantime, according to Gazeta, the Ingush Interior Ministry has accused the republic’s FSB for its failure to give a warning about the attacks beforehand. Itar-Tass reports that 86 people have been detained in connection with the rebel raids on Ingushetia. Interfax states that human rights activists have accused security agencies of violating civilians’ rights during the search operations (All media).

- Former Chechen deputy PM shot dead in Moscow: Former Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Yakov Sergunin was shot dead in Moscow on Friday. The Chechen administration told Interfax that Sergunin had left Chechnya in 2002 and has recently been conducting business unrelated to Chechnya. Kommersant (Sat, front page) notes thatSergunin, who was nearly 50, spent some time in prison, subsequently became a general and even worked in the administrative department of the Russian President. According to the daily, the late Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov used to say that it was Allah himself who had sent Sergunin to him, while the former Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov called Sergunin an adventurer (All media).

30 juni 2004

- Jury acquits officers accused of murdering Chechen civilians: Two interior troops officers, Yevgeny Khudyakov and Sergey Arakcheyev, who had been charged with murdering three Chechen construction workers, were acquitted in a jury trial in Rostov on Don. Kommersant (front page) quotes deputy chief military prosecutor Anatoly Romashko as saying the verdict will be appealed. Novye Izvestia comments in a front-page article entitled “Good murderers –2” that a jury of the Rostov-on-Don court had also acquitted several special forces officers charged with the murder of Chechen civilians last May (Kommersant, Novye Izvestia).

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