Chechnya's Kadyrov most likely to be re-appointed, to take part in direct governor elections: Sources, contacted by RBK daily, expressed confidence that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov will be appointed as acting head of Chechnya before 5 April when his current term of office expires. The sources also say that Kadyrov will take part in direct gubernatorial elections in Chechnya in September. Commentators say that Kadyrov's recent statements that he would like to step down and end his political career should not be taken seriously. (RBK)
ISIL releases new video threatening Russia: In a video released by the Islamic State's branch in the North Caucasus, militants have threatened Russia with more terror attacks. The video showed a report about last month's car bombing in Dagestan that killed two police officers. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. The video also showed the execution of an alleged Russian intelligence agent. (Gazeta.ru)
Human rights activists, journalists attacked near Ingushetia-Chechnya administrative border: Reportedly, a group of human rights activists and journalists were attacked by unidentified assailants on Wednesday near the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. Several people, including a journalist from Sweden and a Norwegian reporter, have been injured in the attack. The head of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Igor Kalyapin confirmed that a group of rights activists and journalists had been attacked and beaten. A criminal case on charges of 'hooliganism' has been opened. In a separate incident later on Wednesday, armed men raided the office of human rights activists in Ingushetia. (Gazeta.ru, Interfax, Kommersant, TASS)
Russia's financial intelligence chief reports on anti-terrorism measures: Meeting with President Putin on Wednesday, the head of Rosfinmonitoring (Russia's Federal Financial Monitoring Service) Chikhanchin said that more than 3,500 terrorism-linked bank accounts have been frozen and more than 1,500 people have been included in the terrorist list last year. He also spoke of cooperation with the French side, saying that a terrorist group organized by natives of the Caucasus has been exposed in France. (Izvestia, RG)
Moscow condemns attack on rights activists, journalists in Ingushetia: The Russian Foreign Ministry and President Putin's spokesman Peskov have condemned Wednesday's attack on human rights activists and journalists on the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. Putin has ordered the Interior Ministry to study the circumstances of the attack. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Pamfilova called on the heads of law enforcement agencies to take personal control of the investigation of the attack. The head of Ingushetia Yevkurov described the incident as a 'provocation'. A criminal case has been opened on charges of 'hooliganism' and 'deliberate damage of property'. Meanwhile, RBK daily reports that human rights activists say that the attack should be qualified as 'robbery committed with violence' and 'obstruction of the lawful professional activity of journalists'. Chief editor of the 'Caucasus Knot' news portal Shvedov views the attack as an action of intimidation and a challenge to relations between Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevkurov. RBK daily and Vedomosti note that Chechen ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev did not rule out that representatives of the Committee for Prevention of Torture NGO might have been involved in the attack. On Thursday, journalists and activists held one-man pickets near the building of the Presidential Administration in Moscow demanding that the perpetrators of the attack be brought to justice. (Gazeta.ru, MK, Novaya Gazeta, Novye Izvestia, RBK, TASS, Vedomosti)
FSB finds no 'illegal actions' in Kadyrov's video showing opposition figures through a sniper's scope: Reportedly, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has not found any "illegal actions" in a video posted by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on his Instagram account that showed the leader of the opposition party Parnas Mikhail Kasyanov in a sniper's crosshairs. Meanwhile, Kadyrov's spokesman Alvi Karimov has asked the Prosecutor General's Office and the Russian Investigative Committee to launch criminal proceedings against Parnas deputy chairman Ilya Yashin over his report and statements about the situation in Chechnya. (Interfax, MK; Ekho Moskvy)
Four injured in explosion near mosque in Ingushetia: Four people were wounded in a car explosion outside a mosque in Nazran (Ingushetia) on Friday. Law enforcement agencies do not rule out that the attack was an attempt on the life of imam of the mosque Khamzat Chumakov. (ii) The National Antiterrorism Committee said on Saturday that two militants had been killed in an operation in Dagestan. (TASS, MT, Novye izvestia)
Probe of attack on journalists in Ingushetia: MK reports on the ongoing investigation of last week's attack on a group of journalists and human rights activists near the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. Initially, a case was opened on charges of 'hooliganism' and 'deliberate damage of property'. Later, investigators also qualified the attack under p.2 Article 162 of the Russian Criminal Code ('robbery committed by a group of persons in a preliminary conspiracy with the use of weapons'). (MK)
Human rights activist attacked in Grozny: The head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture NGO Igor Kalyapin was attacked on Wednesday in Grozny. The head of the Presidential Human Rights Council Fedotov said that he had informed the Russian leadership and the Interior Ministry about the attack, adding that the Council will demand that a criminal case be opened in connection with the incident. The media recalls that last week, a group of journalists and human rights activists was attacked near the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. (Gazeta.ru, Dozhd TV)
Council of Europe to release report on missing persons: According to Kommersant, the Council of Europe plans to release a report on missing persons in Europe. Special attention is paid to disappearances in the North Caucasus, in particular in Chechnya. (ii) In a separate publication, Kommersant reports that the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Muiznieks has published his observations submitted to the European Court of Human Rights on the case over the murder of Russian human rights activist Natalia Esremirova in the North Caucasus in 2009. Muiznieks speaks of "the absence of determination on the part of Russian authorities" to investigate the crime. Kommersant adds that Muiznieks has intervened as a third party. (Kommersant)
Kremlin slams attack on human rights activist in Grozny: President Putin's spokesman Peskov said on Thursday that an attack in Grozny on the head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture Igor Kalyapin was unacceptable. At the same time, Peskov did not link the attack to the issue of extension of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's powers. (ii) According to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Ukrainian Consul in Rostov-on-Don Kovtun has been attacked in Grozny. Reportedly, Kovtun was attending court proceedings in Grozny in relation to two Ukrainian nationals accused of involvement in the killings of Russian soldiers in Chechnya in the 1990s. (Gazeta.ru, MK, NG, Novye Izvestia, Vedomosti)
Support to Crimea: Budget transfers to Crimea declined in 2015, according to experts. Federal budget transfers accounted for 67% of the Crimean budget in 2015 which is comparable with Kamchatka and Dagestan. Federal budget transfers account for 83% and 85% of the budgets of Chechnya and Ingushetia respectively. In nominal terms, the budgetary support to Crimea was 79 billion roubles in 2015. Wages in Crimea increased by 1.8 times compared with the year 2013. The rate of inflation in Crimea was 78% in the last two years and food prices grew by 92%. (Vedomosti)
Russian court finds Ukrainian pilot Savchenko guilty of murder: The Donetsk city court (Russia's Rostov region) on Monday found Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko guilty over the killing of two Russian journalists near Lugansk in 2014. She was also found guilty of illegally crossing the Russian border. The court said Savchenko committed crimes motivated by hatred towards Russian-speaking people. Savchenko's lawyer Mark Feigin said that Savchenko intends to go on 'dry' hunger strike in ten days, after the sentence comes into force. (ii) Kommersant reports on a criminal case against Nadezhda Savchenko's sister, Vera, accused of 'insulting a judge' during court proceedings in Grozny (capital of Chechnya) against two Ukrainian nationals. (Kommersant, RT, Ekho Moskvy)
Russian reactions to terrorist attacks in Brussels: Russian press reports extensively on the 22 March terrorist attacks in Brussels, which have become the major terrorist attacks in Europe in the past four months (after the Paris attacks in November 2015). Russian officials and diplomats, including President Putin and PM Medvedev, have responded to the bombings. Meeting with visiting Finnish President Niinisto on Tuesday, Putin stressed the need to pool efforts in the fight against terrorism.
While the Russian President and Prime Minister condemned the attacks and expressed condolences in connection with casualties among the civilian population, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zakharova said in televised remarks that the terrorist attacks in Brussels were caused by "a policy of double standards" and noted that "you cannot divide terrorists into 'good' and 'bad', you cannot support them in one region (in the Middle East, the North Caucasus) and think that this terrible disease of the modern world will not come to the other side of the planet."
The head of the Duma's International Affairs Committee Pushkov claimed that "while [NATO Secretary General] Stoltenberg fights against imaginary 'Russian threat,' putting troops in Latvia, they blow up people under his nose in Brussels."
During a televised program 'Evening with Vladimir Solovyov' aired on Tuesday on the state-run TV channel Rossiya 1, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) Zhirinovsky said that terrorist attacks will be taking place all over Europe and claimed that "it will be beneficial for us." Zhirinovsky proposed that all migrants be deported from Europe following the terror attacks in Brussels.
Duma speaker Naryshkin is quoted as saying that "instead of taking resolute measures in the fight against terrorism, the politicians and countries of the EU and NATO are announcing various types of sanctions which violate the fundamental rights of millions of citizens, and besides, they start to bargain about the fates of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa."
The head of a Duma committee Slutsky said that "while Europe was dancing to the American songs that called Russia the main threat to world security in the 21st century, the real threat penetrated the very heart of the European continent.”
According to Communist Party leader Zyuganov, first of all, the US is to blame for terrorism growth. "Those who unleashed state terrorism in the whole planet, first of all Americans, are the main culprit," he said.
Responses in social media echo the cynical statements by Zakharova, Naryshkin and Pushkov.
Moscow mayor Sobyanin expressed his condolences in connection with the Brussels attacks, saying that "Moscow knows the price of such tragic events." The media reports that Muscovites are laying flowers at the Belgian Embassy in Moscow.
The head of the Council of Muftis of Russia Ravil Gainutdin said in a statement that "Islam and the Muslim community condemn the murderers of innocent people, condemn the terrorists who will face horrible punishment from the Almighty."
Meeting with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier on Wednesday in Moscow, Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed the hope that "the Europeans will put aside geopolitical games and unite so as not to allow terrorists to run the show on our common continent."
Expert comments: Expert Sergey Fedorov, cited by Vedomosti, speaks of symbolic meaning of the terrorist attacks in Brussels as Paris and Brussels, in many ways, symbolize Europe and European values. Experts, contacted by Vedomosti, expressed the view that there would be no serious political consequences because of 'disunity' of EU countries. MGIMO professor Yevgeny Nikitin adds that potential terrorists are already on the territory of the EU. In the view of Kommersant observer Maxim Yusin, by perpetrating the attacks in Brussels, the terrorists are sending several signals to the world community. The terrorists inter alia want to show that they cannot be defeated and that the security measures taken by the European governments are ineffective. (All media; link to Putin's statement: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/51546; see also 'editorial lines' and 'social media')
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Ekho Moskvy
Zakharova's blog piece protests against Radio Svoboda article titled 'Choral dehumanizing at governmental level' that referred to her earlier comments and criticised other examples of government official responses on the attacks in Brussels that were in line with her and Pushkov's comments. In defence, she drew examples of condolences expressed by her on television and called the Radio Svoboda article a "foul piece of prop". She also drew attention to foreign financing of the news outlet and called it "pasture for terrorists from the North Caucasus that paints them as political migrants, refugees and fighters for justice".
Supreme Court upholds life sentence for former mayor of Makhachkala: The Russian Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence handed down on former mayor of Makhachkala (capital of Dagestan) Said Amirov for terrorism. (RG)
Putin appoints Kadyrov acting head of Chechnya: President Putin has signed a decree to appoint Ramzan Kadyrov as acting head of Chechnya. Meeting with Kadyrov on Friday, Putin expressed the hope that Kadyrov will run in the elections of Chechnya's head in September. Putin also called on Kadyrov to "enforce Russian laws" in Chechnya. Commentators say that there is no real alternative to Kadyrov. Expert Alexander Kynev, cited by RBK daily, expresses the view that the elections of Chechnya's head would be a de facto referendum. (RBK, RG, Vedomosti; see also 'editorial lines')
The editorial comments on Putin's recent statement expressing his hope that Ramzan Kadyrov, who was appointed as acting head of Chechnya, will run in the September elections and which, according to the editorial, will be easily won. "Such reappointment is an obvious example of Byzantine politics in Russia". Political experts agree that any alternatives to Kadyrov now would be too expensive. Nonetheless, it is noted that there was a bargaining and disciplinary process "to tame [Kadyrov's] transactional appetite" and he also needs "to be better at talking with federal power structures". Despite Putin's dissatisfaction with law infringement in the republic "it is impossible to imagine that the standalone legal system built by Kadyrov in Chechnya will be liquidated".
One policeman killed, two injured in car explosions in Dagestan; Islamic State claims responsibility: One police officer was killed and two others were wounded as two vehicles were blown up in Dagestan on Tuesday evening. Islamic State said that its local affiliate has been responsible for the attack. (Gazeta.ru, Interfax, RIAN)
One more case opened over attack on journalists in Ingushetia: The Investigative Committee's department for Ingushetia has opened a case on charges of 'obstruction of the lawful professional activities of journalists' in connection with the 9 March attack on a group of foreign and Russian journalists and human rights activists near the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. (RBK)