North Caucasus: (i) The UN yesterday resumed its humanitarian work in Ingushetia. Work was suspended for 2 days due to the abduction of a UN activist in Chechnya. (ii) Federal Minister Yelagin, who is responsible for the reconstruction of Chechnya, yesterday denied that Chechen refugees were being pressured to return home and stressed that the authorities have “10,000 applications from those who want to go back and are awaiting their turn” (Vremya novostei, MT).
Chechnya: (i) Yesterday in Grozny, the presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, and top military officials from the federal forces in the North Caucasus discussed a draft amendment to the regulation on special operations in Chechnya. The amendment stipulates that federal troops would only surround a village during special operations, while searches for rebels would be carried out by local Chechen police, prosecutors and other law enforcement officers. According to Sultygov, the draft would be finalized in 2 weeks. (ii) Yesterday, federal planes and helicopters made a series of strikes against rebel camps in Chechnya’s mountains and provided air cover for ground troops. According to a military official, “Russian aircraft have not violated the Georgian state border”. (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Interfax).
Yesterday, Russian airborne troop commander Gennadii Shpak raised objection to any attempt to hold talks with Ichkerian leader Maskhadov. (ORT, NTV, Interfax, Ekho Moskvy).
Draft Chechen Constitution finalised: (i) Commenting on media speculation about rebels under Shamil Basaev preparing to raid Gudermes on 6 August, Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov said yesterday that the separatists are too weak to carry out large-scale operations that can influence the situation in Chechnya. (ii) The Constitutional Commission of Chechnya yesterday approved by a qualified majority (2/3 of votes) a final draft Constitution. The draft Constitution reads that Chechnya is “a fully-fledged member of the Russian Federation”. Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov has insisted that the words “Chechnya… is a sovereign constituent state of Russia” be removed from the text. Media report that Mr Kadyrov also insists on stipulating that to run for the Chechen presidency, one must have lived in Chechnya for the previous 10 years. (iii) Presidential Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya Sultygov said yesterday that a database with the names of people who have disappeared in Chechnya in the past few years would be published on the Internet shortly (RTR, Interfax, RIAN, Izvestia, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Vremya MN, MT)
Eleven killed by mine attack in Chechnya: 11 Chechen servicemen are reported to have been killed and 7 injured after a lorry carrying 33 servicemen from the local military commandant’s office hit a radio-controlled land mine planted by rebels in Chechnya’s Shatoi district. Among the killed are three nephews of Chechnya’s Mufti Akhmad-Khadzhi Shamayev. The attack was committed on the sixth anniversary of the Chechen storming and recapture of Grozny under Aslan Maskhadov. In the past few days, there have been rumours that rebel groups might stage a series of demonstrative acts in Chechnya (RTR, NTV, Interfax, RIAN, Izvestia).
Liberal Russia calls for peace talks in Chechnya: Nezavisimaya gazeta today publishes a statement signed by the leadership of the Liberal Russia party and businessman Boris Berezovsky. The statement urges the Russian authorities to start peace talks in Chechnya and considers calls for a military solution to the alleged presence of rebel groups in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge as a threat to go to war with Georgia.
Chechnya: (i) In a statement issued yesterday, Russia’s Presidential Information Directorate announced that 10 Chechen servicemen were killed and 8 injured by the rebel mine attack in Shatoi on 6 August The statement emphasizes that “in an attempt to justify the money received from international terrorist organisations, rebels do not refrain from the most barbaric methods and violate the basic principles of Islam”. (ii) Military commandant of the Shatoi region Alexander Bondarenko yesterday denied allegations that after the mine blast in Shatoi, federal troops opened fire on the injured Chechen servicemen (iii) Federal troop headquarters announced yesterday that Khusein Idiyev, a militant who allegedly participated in the murder of 3 British and 1 New Zealand citizens in 1998, had been detained in Chechnya’s Naurskaya district. Idiyev is reported to be a member of the rebel group formerly led by Arbi Barayev. The British and New Zealand Embassies in Moscow are awaiting confirmation of the arrest from the Russian side. (iv) An official of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus said yesterday that at least 10 rebels had been killed in Chechnya over the past 24 hours. The official claimed that among the dead is a field commander who goes by the nickname of “Islam”. (v) Interfax reports that a police squad discovered a woman sent to Gudermes to carry out a suicide bombing on 6 August, but failed to detain her. (vi) 2 Chechen militants, who allegedly intended to punish Georgian shepherd Levan Telidze for assisting Russian border guards, are reported to have been killed (RTR, NTV, Interfax, Kommersant).
Referendum on Chechen Constitution to be held in 2003: Head of the Central Election Commission Alexandr Veshnyakov said yesterday that a referendum on the current draft Chechen Constitution could be held in Chechnya in early 2003, as the period between the registration to hold a referendum and the referendum itself could not be shorter than 100 days. Earlier, Deputy Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Taus Dzhabrailov stressed that the draft Chechen Constitution would be adopted in a national referendum in November (Interfax, RIAN, Kommersant).
Chechnya: (i) Yesterday, 4 Russian servicemen were seriously injured when their patrol of six came under attack in Grozny. In a televised interview, Grozny’s acting Prosecutor Yuri Ponomaryov said that rebels threw grenades at the servicemen and then opened fire on them. (ii) Speaking on the future Chechen parliament last Friday, Presidential Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov said that “a certain number of separatists will be elected” as “we cannot ban ideology”. However, he expressed confidence that separatist ideas are not very popular among the Chechen population. He also stressed that a referendum on the current draft Chechen Constitution would be “a tremendous historical event” as “for the first time in its entire history, the Chechens have a chance to decide”. (iii) Following meeting with A.-Kh.Sultygov last Friday, Deputy regional representative of the UNHCR Jozshef Gyorke said that “it is impossible to find enough places” to relocate all Chechen refugees from tent camps in Ingushetia by winter and added that “Chechnya is not ready to accept people”. (v) According to the regional headquarters of the anti-terrorist operation in the Northern Caucasus, the Russian Air Force destroyed a rebel camp in a mountain forest in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district. (RTR, ORT, Interfax, MT).
Defence Minister claims rebels killed at Russia-Georgia border had Georgian refugee ID: Yesterday, while visiting Russian military units deployed in Kabardino-Balkaria, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov emphasized that some rebels killed by federal forces in Chechnya had Georgian refugee identification cards. He also asserted that some Chechen rebels killed after crossing the border from Georgia “were men who had been listed by their relatives as missing during sweep operations in Chechnya and who at the same time lived in Georgia and received terrorist training there”. Ivanov reiterated that “Georgia will never be able to deal with rebels in the Pankisi Gorge alone without the involvement of Russia, without the use of its military force”. (RTR, ORT, Kommersant, Izvestia, Interfax).
Dutchman kidnapped in North Caucasus: (i) The head of the Swiss branch of Médecins Sans Frontières mission in Makhachkala and Dutch national, was abducted yesterday night in Dagestan. (ii) A representative of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus said yesterday that 22 soldiers and law enforcement officers had been killed in Chechnya over the past week. Since the beginning of the current counter-terrorism operation in the North Caucasus in 1999, including fighting in Daghestan, 4,302 servicemen and officers of different structures have officially been killed and 12,417 wounded. He also noted that 30 extremists, including 3 field commanders, had been killed in Chechnya over the last week. Since the beginning of the current counter-terrorism operation, federal troops claim they have killed 13,760 rebels. (iii) Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said yesterday that followers of field commander Doku Umarov who are suspected of involvement in a terrorist act in Shatoi on 6 August have been killed in Chechnya. (iv) Addressing the Chechen people yesterday, Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Akhmad Kadyrov said that some Chechens who are “stupefied by Ichkerian and Wahhabite ideology” still think that Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev “express the interests of common people and are fighting for independence and liberty”. Kadyrov accused Basayev and Maskhadov of spreading rumours about negotiations being conducted with them and about plans to remove Russian troops from Chechnya shortly (Interfax, Kommersant, Izvestia).
Chechnya: (i) At a meeting yesterday with representatives of international humanitarian organisations in Moscow, Federal Minister Vladimir Yelagin, who is responsible for matters concerning Chechnya, confirmed that the authorities intend to make Chechnya rather than Ingushetia the centre of humanitarian aid activity. He pointed out that some 92,500 refugees are currently in Ingushetia. (ii) Media report on a series of explosions yesterday in Shali, one of which killed 3 people and injured 8 others. Kommersant reports that, according to Chechen prosecutors, federal troops consisting mainly of Chechen residents might be responsible for the blasts. (iii) An explosion rocked a bus in Grozny yesterday, killing at least 3 people. (iv) Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Akhmad Kadyrov proposed yesterday the withdrawal of excessive federal troops from Chechnya and appealed to local law enforcement bodies to take the lead in the fight against terrorism and banditry in Chechnya. (v) According to the regional headquarters of the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus yesterday, law enforcement bodies have conducted 9 special and preventive operations in Chechnya over the past 24 hours (RTR, ORT, RIAN, Interfax, Kommersant, MT).
North Caucasus: (i) Médecins Sans Frontières has suspended its work in Dagestan and Ingushetia indefinitely in connection with the abduction of the MSF mission head Arjan Erkel in Makhachkala. (ii) In a special statement issued yesterday, the ICRC expressed its concerns about the fate of Arjan Erkel and representative of the Russian NGO Druzhba (Friendship), Nina Davydovich, stressing that the Red Cross will continue its humanitarian activities in the North Caucasus. However, a UN spokeswoman said that the UN would maintain its decision to suspend humanitarian programmes in Chechnya. (iii) Deputy Commander of the Combined Federal Forces in the North Caucasus Pyotr Podoprigora warned journalists yesterday that they could be kidnapped by Chechen rebels “wearing Russian military uniforms”. (iv) Presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov arrived in Chechnya yesterday to investigate the explosion in Shali on 13 August which killed 3 people and injured 8 others. (v) A Chechen policeman has accidentally shot and killed a 15-year-old girl in Grozny. (Interfax, Ekho Moskvy, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya novostei, MT).
North Caucasus: (i) Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Akhmad Kadyrov signed a decree yesterday declaring a 3-day mourning period in Chechnya in connection with “continuing bloodshed on Chechen soil”. Kadyrov stressed that he was shocked by the killing of 2 little girls and their mother by federal troops in Shali on 13 August. The Chechen Prosecutor’s Office has since opened a criminal case against a serviceman who “mistakenly” opened fire on the girls and their mother in a residential area. (ii) At a meeting with President Putin yesterday, President of Ingushetia Murat Zyazikov pointed out that some 90,000 Chechen refugees are currently in Ingushetia, claiming that in the last 1.5 months 27,000 Chechen refugees have returned home. (iii) Presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov said yesterday that the return of Chechen refugees is being hampered because half of them have no internal passports. He expressed the opinion that the unwillingness of the authorities to help refugees is “pure and simple sadism”. (iv) Ekho Moskvy radio station reports that, yesterday in Zurich, former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin discussed the prospects for a peaceful settlement in Chechnya with Akhmed Zakayev, an envoy of Ichkerian/Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. (v) According to an official of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, detained Chechen rebel Ali Duriyev has told interrogators that he was trained by a Pakistani instructor named Khalil in Georgia. (vi) 2 officers of the Chechen office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) are reported to have been killed and 3 injured in a clash on Wednesday with rebels in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district. (vii) 2 servicemen were killed yesterday by a mine in Grozny. The district military commandant’s office claims it was an accident. (viii) According to the military commandant’s office in Chechnya, rebels made an attempt last night to seize the Chechen village of Shalazhi (RTR, Interfax, RIAN, Kommersant, Izvestia).
North Caucasus - further victims in Chechnya: (i) Last Friday, Chechen rebels attempted to enter several Chechen villages in the Urus-Martan district. Deputy commander of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus Boris Podoprigora has confirmed that rebels shot at an interior troop post in Shalazhi. There was also fighting in the villages of Martan-Chu and Gehi-Chu. According to an official in the Chechen Civilian Administration, at least 12 Chechen federal servicemen have been killed and 10 wounded. According to a representative of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, Ilya Shabalkin, 32 rebels have been found dead in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district. He said that the rebels were subordinate to field commander Doku Umarov. Deputy Military Commandant of Chechnya Selim Tsuyev said that the population of the Urus-Martan district had refused to let the raiders enter their villages and joined Russian troops and police in fighting them. (ii) In a special press release issued on Saturday, the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus claimed that Chechen rebels are seeking to make international human rights groups their allies and “various foreign organisations are continuing secretly to finance bandit attacks”. It is pointed out that “$100,000 is to be transferred shortly to the account of the OSCE mission in the village of Znamenskoye, formally ‘for financial assistance to families of those killed’, but in effect…to a considerable extent for the relatives and helpers of militants”. (iii) On Saturday, a Russian Interior Troop convoy came under fire in Grozny. On Sunday, the bodies of a Chechen policeman and 3 local residents were found in the town of Shali. (iv) Last Friday, cameras were seized from ORT and TVS television crews by federal servicemen. The TV crews were recording footage of refugees leaving the village of Shalazhi. (iv) Chechen PM Stanislav Ilyasov said on Saturday that the Russian Government had approved an overall reconstruction and development plan for the Chechen capital Grozny. Mr Ilyasov said also that he is not planning to run in forthcoming presidential elections in Chechnya. (v) According to an official of Médecins Sans Frontières, the staff of MSF’s mission in Makhachkala was transferred to Moscow last Friday. (RTR, ORT, Interfax, Ekho Moskvy, Kommersant).
Mi-26 military helicopter crashes in Chechnya: (i) A Mi-26 military transport helicopter crashed yesterday near the military headquarters at Khankala outside Grozny. In a televised interview with ORT yesterday, deputy commander of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus Boris Podoprigora said there had been 132 people (127 federal troops and 5 crewmembers) on board the aircraft when it crashed. 32 people have been hospitalised. The number of killed has not been officially announced, but sources at military headquarters put the death toll at around 85. However, Gazeta.Ru reports that over 100 people may have been killed in the crash. According to Podoprigora, the Mi-26 helicopter is designed to carry 82 people. Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said that the helicopter fell on a minefield, complicating rescue efforts. He also said that it is not yet clear whether the helicopter was shot down by Chechen rebels from a portable missile anti-aircraft launcher or suffered a technical fault. Defence Ministry spokesman Nikolai Deryabin has said that the pilot had requested permission to make an emergency landing because one of the engines was on fire. Deputy military commandant of Chechnya, Selim Tsuyev said this morning it was “unlikely that the helicopter had been shot down from land” and added that “a technical fault most probably caused the crash”. (ii) President Putin has demanded an exhaustive and thorough inquiry into the crash, which the media say was the biggest in Russian military history. Commander-in-chief of the Russian Ground Forces and Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Kormiltsev, who is heading the inquiry team, arrives in Chechnya today to investigate the crash. Defence Minister Segei Ivanov and Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov are reported to leave for the North Caucasus today. Commander of the North Caucasus Military District (SKVO) Gennady Troshev is also reported to be taking part in the investigation (All media).
Situation in North Caucasus:(i) According to a source in Dagestan’s law-enforcement agencies, Médecins Sans Frontières staff member Arjan Erkel, who was abducted last week in Makhachkala, may “possibly” be in Chechnya. (ii) The head of Kalinovskaya village administration in Chechnya’s Naura district, Khizir Dunayev, was killed on Sunday night. (iii) An official of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus said yesterday that a rebel base near the village of Kharsenoi has been destroyed and field commander Musanna, who was subordinate to Arab mercenary Abu al Walid, has been killed. (iv) A representative of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, Ilya Shabalkin, said yesterday that 39 rebels have been killed in 11 special operation carried out by the federal forces in 8 Chechen districts over the past 2 days. He noted that the number of rebels killed in the village of Shalazhi in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district has reached 38. The headquarters of the combined federal forces report that that federal troops killed 52 rebels between 12 and 19 August (RIAN, Izvestia, Kommersant).
Defence Minister says Chechnya helicopter crash kills 114: (i) Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Khankala yesterday there were 147 people on board the Mi-26 military transport helicopter when it crashed on Monday near Khankala military base on the eastern outskirts of Grozny, out of which 114 were killed and 33 survived. The survivors are currently in hospitals in Khankala and Rostov-on-Don. This morning, the death toll of the crash reached 115.
Chechnya: (i) Yesterday, President Putin discussed the security of movement of servicemen in Chechnya with Chief of the General Staff, Anatoly Kvashnin. On the same day, Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov gave the order to create the post of Deputy Commander of the Combined Federal Forces in the North Caucasus responsible for transportation. (ii) The head of Tsotsin-Yurt village administration in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district, Mogi Gikayev, was killed yesterday by a group of unidentified men. According to Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Akhmad Kadyrov, Gikayev was killed at the personal order of Ichkerian/Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. Also yesterday, the deputy military commandant of Achhoi-Martan district, Samvel Araskhanyan was shot dead in Grozny. (iii) According to a representative of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, up to 60 rebels have been resisting federal troops in a large-scale special operation in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district. The representative added that special police force squads have received fire support from planes and artillery. (iv) Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeeva have sent a telegram to President Putin asking him to interfere in the situation in Chechnya’s Vedeno district where over 100 people were detained on 16 August. Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Akhmad Kadyrov called Mironov’s and Alexeeva’s action a “provocation”, claiming that servicemen had only detained 59 people for identity checks. (v) The Federal Migration Service said yesterday that it has created a special commission to sort out food distribution problems in a Chechen immigration centre in Tver. (vi) Chechnya’s former Security Minister, Turpal-Ali Atgeriev, has died in a Russian prison. Turpal-Ali was sentenced at the end of last year to 15 years’ imprisonment (RIAN, Interfax, Ekho Moskvy, Vremya novostei, MT).
National Flag Day on day of national mourning: In accordance with President Putin’s decree, 22 August has been declared a day on national mourning for the 116 soldiers killed in the helicopter crash in Chechnya. The day of mourning coincides with National Flag Day (Kommersant).
Chechnya: (i) At a meeting yesterday, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov briefed President Putin on the results of his visit to Chechnya. Media report that Putin demanded a report on the investigation of the Mi-26 helicopter crash. He is quoted as having stressed that “military reform aims to make the army more viable and efficient and to prevent such tragedies”. According to Putin, “even the most preliminary analysis shows that, as a rule, the responsibility lies with officials performing their duties improperly”. He also instructed Ivanov to provide all necessary assistance rapidly to families of the Mi-26 crash victims.
(ii) English-language newspaper The Moscow Times reports today that the human rights group, Memorial, has said that the military has started to threaten its members working in the Chechen offices; therefore the group is considering closing the offices down (NTV, RIAN, Interfax, Ekho Moskvy, ITAR-TASS, Lenta.Ru, Izvestia, Kommersant, Vremya novostei, MT).
North Caucasus: (i) The deputy commander of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, Boris Podoprigora, has said that federal troops killed 28 armed militants in 6 raids in Chechnya’s Grozny, Gudermes, Shali and Achhoi-Martan districts last Friday. According to Podoprigora, up to 25 rebels have been killed near the village of Bamut on the Chechnya-Ingushetia border. He added that “militants had been surrounded in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district”. (ii) 8 Russian border guards were reported to have been found dead on the Ingush stretch of the Russia-Georgia border on Saturday, whilst 2 others were missing. According to the Federal Border Service, 2 missing border guards might have been taken hostage by rebels and moved to Georgia. Representatives of the military prosecutor’s office of the Russian Federal Border Service, however, did not rule out the theory that the border guards might have been shot dead by their comrades who then disappeared from the site. (iii) Yesterday, a truck with Russian servicemen was blown up by an unidentified explosive device at the village of Cheri-Yurt in Chechnya’s Shali district. The exact number of casualties has not been reported.
North Caucasus: (i) A representative of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus said yesterday that 70 rebels had been killed during special federal force operations in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan and Nozhai-Yurt districts last week. 18 federal servicemen are reported to have been killed and 47 injured in Chechnya during the last week. (iii) Commander of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, Vladimir Moltenskoy, has confirmed the death of Chechen field commander Aslambek Abdulkhadzhiyev, known as Shamil Basayev “right hand man”. Abdulkhadzhiyev was killed in a special operation in Shali. (iv) At a press conference yesterday in Moscow, Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov said that excess federal troops should be pulled out of Chechnya before free elections are held in the republic, adding that “people are tired of sweep-operations and extortion at roadblocks”. Speaking yesterday on the withdrawal of Russian military units from Chechnya, the commander of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus Vladimir Moltenskoy stressed that the terms of the withdrawal process stipulated by the Government were being “followed strictly”. (v) The Chechen Prosecutor’s Office has opened criminal proceedings in connection with mass graves of Russian federal troops, presumably hostages taken by members of Shamil Basayev’s rebel group in 1996. The graves were discovered recently near the village of Stary Achhoi in South-West Chechnya. Chechnya’s Prosecutor Nikolai Kostyuchenko has said that the bodies had been decapitated. (vi) The Chechen Interior Department said yesterday that a resident of the Chelyabinsk oblast (South Urals) and Russian native, who had allegedly been kept in slavery by Chechens for almost 9 years, has been released in Chechnya (NTV, RTR, ORT, Interfax, RIAN, RBC, Vremya novostei, Kommersant, Izvestia, Rossiiskaya gazeta).
North Caucasus: (i) Following a meeting with St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev yesterday, Head of the Chechen Civilian Administration Akhmad Kadyrov pointed out that as soon as the Chechen Interior Department was formed, he would appeal to the Federal Government “to withdraw excess federal forces from Chechnya”. He reiterated that Chechnya had to hold a referendum on a draft Chechen Constitution in December 2002 and spoke in favour of a law banning Wahhabism in Russia. Kadyrov once again expressed opposition towards possible negotiations with Ichkerian/Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. (ii) According to a representative of the combined federal forces in the North Caucasus, federal troops are continuing the large-scale special operation that started a week ago in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district. (iii) Media report that an attempt to abduct a TV crew from “one of the central Russian TV channels” has been prevented in Grozny. (RTR, RIAN, Interfax, Vremya novostei, Izvestia).
Zakaev claims Maskhadov successful in uniting rebels: Akhmed Zakayev, a spokesman for Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, has claimed that Ichkeria’s ex-vice president Yandarbiyev and chief ideologist Udugov have re-joined forces with Maskhadov, thus confirming reports in yesterday’s edition of Kommersant newspaper. According to Zakayev, Maskhadov has managed to unite all those resisting Russian troops, which makes him the only possible negotiator with the federal authorities. Russian officials have always said that talks with Maskhadov were senseless, and that he must surrender and disarm.