- Ruslan Khasbulatov to run for Chechen President: Ruslan Khasbulatov, former chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet, announced his intention to run for the position of Chechen President. Khasbulatov said he is sure he would win in the first round. Kommersant notes that Khasbulatov will be a strong competitor to Chechen Administration head Kadyrov as he enjoys considerable support in the republic being the second most popular Chechen politician (after Duma deputy Aslakhanov), according to recent polls (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Interfax).
4 augustus 2003
- Suicide attack at Mozdok military hospital kills 50: (i) Last Friday, a suicide bomber drove a Kamaz truck loaded with explosives through a gate and detonated a bomb at the entrance of the military hospital in Mozdok (North Ossetia), killing 50 and wounding over 70. Most of the patients of the hospital were Russian soldiers. According to a source in the Russian police, Chechen separatist leader Basayev was responsible for the bombing. Deputy Prosecutor General Fridinsky noted that two persons, suspected of selling the Kamaz military truck, were detained. Visiting the hospital’s ruins, Defence Minister S.Ivanov suggested that the troops guarding the hospital had violated security rules, adding that the commander of the Mozdok military garrison was suspended from duty. The Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office said that the hospital’s manager was arrested for suspected “criminal negligence”. (ii) In a telegram of condolence to the families of the victims, President Putin stressed that “the terrorists would be unable to impose their criminal will” and “would not stop the process of a political settlement in Chechnya”. Chair of the Presidential Human Rights Commission Pamfilova also pointed out that the terrorist attack in Mozdok was aimed at “disrupting the upcoming Chechen presidential and parliamentary elections”. It was announced that today would be a day of morning in North Ossetia. (All media)
- New clashes in Chechnya: (i) Media report that four federal officers were killed and another one was wounded after a group of Russian Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service officers were ambushed in the Vedeno district of Chechnya last week. (ii) The Moscow Times refers to a source in the Chechen Civilian Administration and reports that 29 servicemen and Chechen police were killed in Chechnya only last Friday. (iii) According to an official of the regional operational HQs in the Northern Caucasus, federal forces have thwarted a rebel attempt to stage a large-scale attack using dozens of hostages as human shields. (Interfax, RIAN, Rossiiskaya gazeta, MT)
- Chechen elections: (i) At a meeting with religious leaders yesterday in Chechnya, Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov confirmed his plans to run in the presidential elections. (ii) Commenting on the forthcoming presidential elections in Chechnya, Presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov noted that some 15 candidates would run and that the turnout would be higher than at the constitutional referendum in March. He also noted that the amnesty in Chechnya might be extended beyond the deadline of 1 September. (iii) Chechen Prosecutor Kravchenko signed a decree last Friday, mandating the Chechen prosecutor’s office to supervise the elections and provide the election commission with legal assistance. (Interfax, RIAN, Kommersant)
- Budanov case: Budanov, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of a Chechen girl and lost his military rank of colonel, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court last Friday. Budanov’s lawyer claims that his client was temporarily insane when he committed the crime. (MT, Vremya novostei)
5 augustus 2003
- Kadyrov submits documents for registration as presidential candidate: Yesterday Chechen Administration head Kadyrov submitted the necessary documents for registration as an independent presidential candidate, thus confirming his intention to run for Chechen President. He reported that he had made up his mind after requests from thousands of citizens (Interfax, Vremya novostei, Nezavisimaya gazeta).
- Chechen refugees to return from Ingushetia by autumn: Interfax quotes Immigration Service chief Yunash as saying that everyone wiling to leave refugee camps in Ingushetia will be transferred to Chechnya by the autumn. He noted that the remaining five tent camps in Ingushetia are currently home to 13,000 refugees. Yunash also stressed that those who do not want to leave Ingushetia will be allowed to stay in the republic (Interfax, Rossiyskaya gazeta).
6 augustus 2003
- Warlord Basayev involved in Mozdok terrorist attack: Kommersant reports that investigators have got solid proof about the involvement of Chechen warlord Basayev in the recent suicide bombing in Mozdok, which claimed 50 lives. The daily also informs that a third suspect in the bombing was detained yesterday – he helped organise the purchase of the truck used by the suicide bomber (Kommersant, Interfax, Gazeta).
- Chechen ombudsman urges rapid investigation into abduction of Chechen girl: Yesterday presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov called for a rapid investigation into the abduction of Elza Katsayeva, a resident of Chechnya’s Samashki village. He stressed that “the choice of the victim, her sex, age, name and even the first letter of her surname, was made so that people could draw a parallel with Elza Kungayeva”(a Chechen girl strangled by former Russian army colonel Budanov). Sultygov also pointed to a link between the recent Mozdok bombing and the abduction. Interfax reports that for four days Samashki villagers have blocked a federal highway demanding the detention of those involved in the abduction (Interfax, Izvestia).
7 augustus 2003
- Abducted Chechen girl released: Elza Katsayeva, a 16-year-old Chechen girl who had been abducted five days ago, was released unharmed and returned home yesterday. Abductors, who are still unidentified, left her alone in a forest in the Mozdok region (North Ossetia). Prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into the abduction case. Kommersant notes that many local Chechen residents tended to believe in the involvement of military servicemen in the abduction while the regional FSB office is of the opinion that the abduction could have been organized by rebels (Interfax, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
8 augustus 2003
- Chechen presidential candidates to join forces against Kadyrov?: Malik Saidullayev, one of the richest Chechen businessmen and a Chechen presidential candidate, said that opponents of Akhmat Kadyrov decided to join forces at the upcoming elections and to support the most successful of Kadyrov’s opponents in the run-off. However, according to Saidullayev, Kadyrov’s opponents are not uniting forces against Kadyrov himself but with a view to ensure democratic elections in Chechnya. Vremya novostei comments in a front-page article entitled “All against one” that this anti-Kadyrov group may prove to be quite strong as it seems to unite all more or less famous Chechen politicians (Vremya novostei).
- Putin meets with Chechen human rights ombudsman: Yesterday President Putin held a meeting with his commissioner for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov. Sultygov presented a progress report on the observance of human rights in the republic. He noted that “apart from certain successes, there are still a lot of financial and technical obstacles standing in the way of investigations, which hampers efforts to restore human rights and freedoms”. Difficulties include the absence of equipment for forensic examinations, as well as the fact that “many Chechen citizens are serving their prison sentences outside the republic” (Interfax, Kommersant).
- Chechen separatist Internet site reopened in Lithuania: Kavkaz-Tsentr, a site of Chechen separatists, which had been shut down by Lithuanian authorities, was reopened in Lithuania yesterday. Vremya novostei points to the “calm reaction” of Chechen officials to this news. The daily quotes Chechen Nationalities Minister Dzhabrailov as saying that “all attempts of rebels and their supporters to influence the situation in Chechnya with the help of Internet sites and other propaganda means are doomed to failure” (Vremya novostei, Interfax).
11 augustus 2003
- Washington declares Basayev an international terrorist: All media report about the decision of the U.S. administration to declare Chechen warlord Basayev an international terrorist and freeze his bank assets. The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced satisfaction with this decision describing it as a move “to strengthen global anti-terrorist cooperation and uproot the threat of terrorism on the territory of the Chechen Republic”. Kommersant reports that the same measures were taken against Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, ex-President of Chechnya. The daily links this step by the U.S. administration to the upcoming visit of President Putin to the U.S. in September (All media).
- Putin meets with head of Central Election Commission: Kommersant reports that on Friday, President Putin held a meeting with the head of the Central Election Commission Veshnyakov. The meeting focused on the upcoming presidential elections in Karachayevo-Cherkessiya and Chechnya, and preparations for the Duma elections (Kommersant).
12 augustus 2003
- Federal Forces hold two operations in Chechnya: Yesterday the command of Federal Forces in Chechnya reported two successful anti-rebel operations. During one of them, a camp of warlord Rappani Khalilov, who had organized the 2002 Kaspiysk bombing, was eliminated. However, according to Kommersant, the following night the allegedly destroyed Khalilov’s gang organized an attack on the Chechen village of Makhkety (Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
13 augustus 2003
- Human rights advocates to observe Chechen elections: Yesterday head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Alexeyeva said that human rights advocates will send some 300 observers to the upcoming presidential elections in Chechnya. According to Alexeyeva, the presidential human rights commission has agreed to monitor the elections as well, “which will not only give the observers a different status, but will also give them more opportunities”. Alexeyeva said that she is against the presidential elections anyway, as “one cannot have such events in wartime” (Interfax, The Moscow Times).
14 augustus 2003
- Duma deputy to run for Chechen President: Yesterday Duma deputy from Chechnya Aslambek Aslakhanov announced his decision to run for the Chechen President becoming the 15th presidential candidate in the republic. Media stress that, according to recent polls, Aslakhanov tops the list of the most popular politicians in Chechnya and may become the main rival of Akmat Kadyrov. According to Kommersant, many people in Grozny think that it took Aslakhanov so long to register because he needed time to get approval for his candidacy from the Kremlin (Kommersant, Vremya novostei, Interfax, Gazeta).
- Maskhadov’s representative in Moscow resigns: Kommersant reports about the resignation of Maskhadov’s representative in Moscow Salambek Maigov. It is noteworthy that Maskhadov had never formally confirmed the status of Maigov as his representative. Maigov said that he had to resign because he had not managed to live up to the expectations of Maskhadov. He also accused the Kremlin of lack of will to establish a real political process in Chechnya (Kommersant).
- Moscow welcomes UN SC’s decision to blacklist Basayev: Interfax quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Fedotov as saying that Russia welcomes the decision of the UN Security Council to put Chechen warlord Basayev on the UN sanction list. He stressed that “this is a sign of the international community’s increased understanding of the actual threat coming from the rebels active in Chechnya”. Interfax also quotes head of Duma’s International Affairs Committee Rogozin as saying that this decision “was shamefully overdue” (Interfax, Gazeta, Kommersant).
15 augustus 2003
- Chechen presidential elections: (i) Interfax reports that the deadline for self-nomination of Chechen presidential candidates expired yesterday. State Duma deputy Aslakhanov was the last, 15th, candidate registered. Nezavisimaya gazeta publishes a front-page interview with Aslakhanov who doubts that the presidential elections will bring stability to the republic. (ii) Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that Ruslan Khasbulatov, one of the most popular politicians in Chechnya, decided to withdraw his candidacy in the upcoming elections. (iii) Yesterday well-known Chechen politician and Press Minister of the republic Gantamirov, who is an antagonist of Kadyrov’s, said that he is not planning to run for the post of Chechen President in October 2003. He added that he would not support Chechen Administration head Kadyrov in the elections noting that Kadyrov “has little chance of winning if the elections are fair” (Kommersant, Interfax). (iv) Interfax quotes the head of the Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov as saying that the Commission has invited five international organization to monitor the Chechen presidential elections, including the OSCE’s ODIHR, PACE, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States and the CIS Executive Committee.
- Chechen refugee camps to be closed in Ingushetia by 1 October: (i) Interfax quotes acting head of Chechnya Popov as saying that all Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia will be closed by 1 October 2003. The refugees who decide to stay will be provided with housing in Ingushetia. Some 9500 Chechen refugees currently live in refugee camps in Ingushetia. (ii) Interfax quotes head of the Federal Migration Service Yunash as saying that some groups are deliberately slowing down the return of refugees from Ingushetia to Chechnya. He stressed that “tensions fanned over the issue are politically motivated, and some would like the Chechen refugees to remain in camps in Ingushetia as a sign of instability in the North Caucasus” (Interfax).
18 augustus 2003
- CoE, OSCE to observe Chechen elections?: (i) Referring to a source in the Russian MFA, Interfax reports that the Council of Europe and OSCE intend to send observers to the 5 October presidential elections in Chechnya. The CIS Executive Council, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab Nations will also send observers. (ii) In its Saturday’s issue, Kommersant reports that former speaker of the Russian parliament Khasbulatov stated that he would not run in the presidential elections in Chechnya. (iii) Chairman of the Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov announced that two candidates who failed to provide information about the bank accounts with which they intended to finance their election campaigns were excluded from the presidential race and that currently there are 13 people on the list of potential candidates. (Interfax)
- Chechen authorities deny forced return of refugees: Last Friday Chechnya’s Minister for Nationalities Affairs Dzhabrailov denied a statement made by a UNHCR official that Chechen refugees have allegedly been forced to return from Ingushetia and stated that “all refugees have been returning from tent camps in Ingushetia voluntarily”. Deputy Head of The Russian Federal Migration Service Yunash stressed that the Service “did not receive complaints from refugees”. Performing the duties of Chechnya’s leader Popov pointed out that all tent camps in Ingushetia would be dismantled by 1 October and that all refugees would be transported to Grozny. (Interfax, Novye Izvestia)
- New clashes in Chechnya kill 15 federal troops: The Moscow Times today quotes an official in the Chechen Civilian Administration as saying that 15 federal soldiers were killed and 40 wounded in fighting across Chechnya at the end of last week. Interfax reports that 3 servicemen were injured by a landmine in the Shelkovskoi district of Chechnya on Sunday.
19 augustus 2003
- Chechen presidential elections: Kadyrov submits signature lists: (i) Kadyrov’s campaign staff yesterday submitted 13,500 signatures in Kadyrov’s support to the Chechen Election Commission, making Kadyrov the first presidential candidate to have collected and submitted the required number of signatures. (ii) According to the Chairman of the Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov, 12 international organisations are invited to observe the presidential elections in Chechnya. He stressed that there had been no reports of violations in the collection of voters’ signatures in support of candidates. (Interfax)
- Sultygov suggests database on people killed and missing in Chechnya: Russian President’s envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov stated that a database of people who were killed or went missing in Chechnya would soon be established by a special working group. He also noted that “there should be military traffic inspection officials and representatives of the Chechen Interior Ministry on duty at Chechnya’s checkpoints”.
20 augustus 2003
- Chechen government says 267 kidnapped this year in Chechnya: Chechnya’s First Deputy PM Khamidov stated that 267 people were abducted in the first half of 2003 and that 564 people went missing in Chechnya in 2002. He added that people are kidnapped both by rebels and security agency officials. (Interfax, Vremya novostei)
- Justice Minister says Russia to guarantee Zakayev’s security: In a letter sent to the British Home Secretary, Justice Minister Chaika pledges security guarantees to Chechen separatist envoy Zakayev in the event of his extradition to Russia. (Interfax)
21 augustus 2003
- Fighting in Chechnya: Representative of the headquarters of the federal forces in the Northern Caucasus Shabalkin confirmed yesterday that an armed clash between army formations and security men of the Chechen Administration, headed by the son of the Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov, and a big rebel group took place in the village of Avtury of Chechnya’s Shali district. He added that 12 rebels were killed. According to a Chechen Interior Ministry official, the group was led by Arab mercenary Al-Walid. (All media)
- Chechen presidential elections; Kadyrov resumes duties: (i) Yesterday the Chechen Election Commission finished receiving signature lists and election deposits from the candidates to the presidential post and started checking the authenticity of the collected signatures. According to the Commission’s officials, 11 contenders have handed in their signature lists. (ii) Acting Chechen President Kadyrov returned from his vacation and signed a decree yesterday resuming his presidential duties. Chairman of the Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov pointed out that Kadyrov has the right to perform his duties until 5 September, when the presidential campaign officially starts in Chechnya. (Interfax, RIAN, Kommersant, Gazeta)
22 augustus 2003
- Ongoing clashes in Chechen village: more victims: (i) A representative of the federal troops in the Northern Caucasus announced yesterday that 14 rebels were killed in an operation to eliminate a rebel group surrounding the village of Avtury in Chechnya’s Shali district and that 3 federal servicemen were killed in the fighting. According to a Chechen Interior Ministry officer, 510 Chechen police are involved in the fighting. (ii) According to a source in the HQs of the federal troops in the Northern Caucasus, 9 servicemen were killed and another 2 wounded in a landmine explosion in the Grozny district yesterday. (iii) Referring to the head of Chechnya’s Vedeno district, Interfax reports that “from 1 to 4 officers of an infantry unit were killed after a truck carrying servicemen came under attack yesterday. (iv) Also yesterday, Head of the village of Tsa-Vedeno in the Vedeno district Yusupov was killed by unidentified gunmen. (Ekho Moskvy, Interfax, RIAN, Kommersant, Gazeta)
25 augustus 2003
- Human rights commissioner rejects accusations by Amnesty International: Interfax reports that presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov rejected the recent claims by Amnesty International that Chechen refugees are being returned to Chechnya by coercion and with no security guarantees as “absolutely groundless” and “provocative”. He noted that this was not the first time when “international organisations tried to mislead the public opinion” (Interfax).
26 augustus 2003
- Ilyasov: compensation payments in Chechnya to begin in September: Interfax quotes federal minister for Chechnya Ilyasov as saying that the payment of compensations for lost housing in Chechnya will begin at the end of September. Ilyasov said that compensation for those who live permanently in Chechnya and lost their homes and property would be 350,000 roubles (over €10,000). It is also reported that about 39,000 families are entitled to compensation (Interfax).
27 augustus 2003
- Chechen PM on Chechen refugee camps; upcoming elections: (i) Interfax quotes Chechen Prime Minister Popov as saying that the number of displaced persons from Chechnya currently living in tent camps in Ingushetia has dropped by two thirds since the beginning of this year. By 1 October, all those living in tent camps will be provided with housing (Interfax, Izvestia). (ii) Kommersant publishes an interview with Popov who is optimistic about the possible outcomes of the upcoming Chechen presidential elections and stresses that the elections will be won “by the Chechen people and President Putin who said that the republic must be governed by a courageous and worthy person” (Kommersant).
28 augustus 2003
- First candidates in Chechen elections officially registered: Following the verification of signatures in support of presidential candidates, the Chechen Election Commission registered the first four candidates yesterday, including Chechen administration head Kadyrov. Seven other potential candidates are likely to be registered in the next few days (Kommersant, The Moscow Times).
29 augustus 2003
- Foreign Ministry welcomes EU decision to put Basayev, Yandarbiyev on terrorist list: Yesterday the Russian Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision of the EU to officially put Chechen rebels Basayev and Yandarbiyev on the list of people and organizations involved in terrorism. According to the Ministry’s release, “this decision is part of the joint actions of Russia and the EU in the fight against international terrorism” (Interfax)
- Kadyrov appeals to law enforcement agencies on security problems in Chechnya: Yesterday Chechen Administration head Kadyrov made public the content of his letter to Russia’s top law enforcement officials saying that security remains the most serious problem in the republic. The letter calls for the creation of an inter-departmental commission, which should be given broad powers, to be able to resolve the search for missing people as well as find and punish “the kidnappers in armoured vehicles”. Nezavisimaya gazeta comments that Kadyrov began his election campaign with the criticism of law enforcement agencies stressing that this criticism is aimed at attracting Maskhadov’s electorate (Nezavisimaya gazeta).