1 oktober 2003
- Russian officials critical of PACE, OSCE observers’ absence from Chechen election: (i) Interfax quotes presidential aide Yastrzhembsky as saying that the decision by PACE and the OSCE not to send observers to the upcoming Chechen election “calls into question these organisations’ commitment to bring the situation in the republic back to normal” (Interfax, Izvestia). (ii) Justice Minister Chaika described the decision by PACE and OSCE as a mistake stressing that “political considerations must not prevail over reality” (Interfax). (iii) Interfax reports that delegations from the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference will arrive in Grozny this week to observe the Chechen election (Interfax).
- EU Troika ambassadors invited to Foreign Ministry after EU statement on Chechnya: RIAN reports that the ambassadors of the EU Trioka in Moscow were invited to the Foreign Ministry yesterday. According to a report of the Ministry, quoted by RIAN, the meeting regarded notably the EU’s recent statement with the expression of concern over arrangements for the presidential election in Chechnya, on which Russian Deputy FM Chizhov gave a political assessment. The report also indicates that Chizhov drew attention to the violation of ethnic Russians’ rights in Latvia and Estonia (RIAN).
- Chechen PM leaves hospital: Yesterday Chechen Prime Minister Popov left a Moscow hospital, presumably against the advice of doctors, and returned to Chechnya. Popov was hospitalised with food poisoning. According to Vremya novostei, the possibility of a deliberate poisoning was finally rejected (All media).
- Five policemen shot dead in Dagestan: Izvestia carries a front-page article entitled “Wahhabis return”. The article reports that gunmen fired into a police vehicle in Dagestan (region bordering Chechnya) yesterday, killing five police officers. Extremists’ revenge is the main version of the crime. The paper notes that during the last twelve months over 20 policemen were killed in Dagestan. Most of them had been actively involved in the fight against extremism in the republic (Izvestia, The Moscow Times, Gazeta).
2 oktober 2003
- Town mayor killed in Chechnya: Yesterday evening, unidentified criminals shot dead Mysa Dakayev, the mayor of the Chechen town of Shali, and his son. Kommersant notes that Dakayev was highly respected in the republic. He was also an active supporter of Chechen Administration head Kadyrov (Kommersant, Interfax).
- Cinema cancels Chechnya film festival: Yesterday the Moscow Cinema Centre refused to be the venue for a festival of documentaries on Chechnya, organised by human rights groups, saying that films were “too much politically charged”. Festival organisers accused the authorities of intimidating the Cinema Centre. All the films will be shown at the Moscow Sakharov Centre. Izvestia reports about the issue in a front-page article entitled “Films turn into PR” (Izvestia, Interfax, The Moscow Times, Kommersant, Vremya novostei).
3 oktober 2003
- Chechen election this weekend: Media widely report about 5 October presidential elections in Chechnya. The media note that almost all pre-election propaganda in the republic is pro-Kadyrov. Vremya novostei reports beneath the headline “Akhmat Kadyrov to become Chechen President the day after tomorrow”, that the worst scenario for Kadyrov could be a runoff. Kommersant highlights an unexpected problem which occurred just a few days before the election, when dozens of Chechen residents blocked highways demanding the release of Chechens who have gone missing in recent months, and threatening not to participate in the vote (All media).
- Amnesty International releases report on human rights in Russia: Interfax reports that Amnesty International released a new report on human rights in Russia. The report analyses changes that have occurred in Russia over the past 12 years. According to Interfax, Amnesty International voiced particular concern over resident registration, cruel treatment of convicts, limited rights for mentally handicapped children, declined lawsuits for Nord Ost former hostages and human rights in Chechnya (Interfax).
6 oktober 2003
- High turnout of Chechnya elections; Kadyrov leads: The Chairman of Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov announced that the turnout of Sunday’s presidential elections in Chechnya was over 81%. According to preliminary results, the Head of Chechen Civilian Administration Kadyrov gained over 80% of votes. Chechen Prosecutor Kravchenko noted that the Prosecutor’s Office had registered no offences against the election law, adding that 40 observers, including foreign ones, monitored the elections. One of the observers, the CIS Executive Secretary Yarov commented that the Chechen voters “had absolute freedom of choice”. However, Kommersant and NG dailies publish critical articles on the elections. (All media)
7 oktober 2003
- Putin on Chechnya elections: Meeting Cabinet members yesterday, President Putin pointed to the high turnout of the Chechnya elections, which sky-scraped to 86.8% of those eligible to vote, and stressed that this fact “means that people are hoping for positive changes, for security”. He called the federal government to help organise elections to the Chechen parliament, which should not be delayed, and “to concentrate on an agreement to divide powers between Chechnya and the federal centre together with Chechnya’s leaders and public”. He also underlined that compensations for local Chechen residents who lost their homes must be paid. (All media)
- U.S. critical on Chechen elections; French PM: political settlement needed: (i) Ekho Moskvy radio station today quotes Spokesman of the U.S. Department of State Boucher as stating that the presidential election in Chechnya “fell short of the potential for producing a positive democratic outcome”. He noted that “the exit of all viable challengers to Akhmad Kadyrov’s candidacy and the overt control of Chechen media by pro-Kadyrov forces prior to election day lead us to conclude that the election did not meet international standards for fair and free elections”. (ii) Meeting with PM Kasyanov yesterday in Moscow, French PM Raffarin expressed belief that “reconciliation in Chechnya can be achieved only by political methods” and noted that France aligns itself with the EU position on the need for a political settlement in Chechnya. (Interfax)
- Veshnyakov: international observers have not questioned Chechen election results: Commenting on the outcome of the elections, the Chairman of the Central Elections Commission Veshnyakov stated that international observers, who monitored the Chechen elections, have not questioned their results. He expressed confidence that the best time for parliamentary elections in Chechnya “is 14 March 2004, so that they coincide with the presidential elections in Russia”. According to the Head of mission of the League of Arab States to Russia al-Barami, the Chechen elections were well organised and highly democratic. (Interfax, RIAN)
- Kadyrov makes first statements as president-elect: Kadyrov, who won Sunday’s Chechen election by gaining approximately 81.2 % of votes, stated that he did not see any reason to reshuffle the Chechen government and that he would not hurry with parliamentary elections in the republic. Parlamentskaya gazeta quotes Kadyrov as saying that “Chechnya does not need a special status” and that “the most important issue is to acquire economic powers”. Kommersant today published an interview with Kadyrov entitled “I will be tougher in the future”, in which he emphasized that one of the first steps he would take as president would be setting up a commission for investigating the crimes connected with the power seizure in the Chechen-Ingush republic in 1991. He pointed out that as soon as Chechen interior troops were able to cope with the situation, he would apply to the Russian President for the withdrawal of federal troops from Chechnya. (Interfax, RIAN, Kommersant, Parlamentskaya gazeta, Gazeta)
- Putin points to likeness of U.S. war in Iraq to Soviet war in Afghanistan: Several Russian dailies today published excerpts from an expansive interview given by President Putin to The New York Times last Saturday, in which he responded to a wide range of topics from Iraq to press freedom in Russia. He warned that Iraq could “become a new centre for all destructive elements” and added that the U.S. now faced the possibility of a prolonged, violent and ultimately futile war in Iraq such as the one which mired the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He was critical of American complaints about Chechnya, humiliating new visa requirements for Russians, and what he termed the “cold-war habits of mind”. Putin stated that “comprehensive support of the real independence of the press, even if we do not like those ideas and opinions” would be offered. The full text of the interview in Russian is published on the presidential web www.kremlin.ru (Izvestia, Gazeta, Vremya novostei, MT)
- Supreme Court upholds sentence in high profile Budanov case: Yesterday, the military board of the Russian Supreme Court upheld a 10-year prison sentence brought by the North Caucasian district court against Budanov, who was found guilty of murdering a Chechen girl. Budanov’s lawyer Astakhov said that he had no immediate plans to apply to the European Court on Human Rights as legal protection in Russia “has not been exhausted yet”. (Interfax, RIAN, Ekho Moskvy, Vedomosti, Vremya novostei, Gazeta)
8 oktober 2003
- Kadyrov declared president-elect; Chechen officials, Duma members criticize U.S. reaction to elections: (i) The Chairman of the Chechen Election Commission Arsakhanov announced yesterday that Akhmad Kadyrov had been elected Chechen president with 80.8% of the votes and that the turnout was 87.7%. He noted that the Commission had not received any complaints from international observers that could affect the results of the elections. The media reports that Kadyrov will be inaugurated as president on 19 October. (ii) Arsakhanov called a U.S. Department of State statement that the Chechen elections had not been democratic “absolutely groundless”, adding that he “does not know what the criteria for them could be” as the participation of “seven candidates does not look like an election without alternatives”. The Chairman of the Duma International Committee Rogozin also sharply criticized the U.S. statement by pointing out that “the problem of legitimacy of elections in Russia’s constituent territory is Russia’s internal affair”. (Interfax, Kommersant)
- Human rights groups challenge official reports on Chechnya elections: Interfax and The Moscow Times report that a number of human rights organisations which had refused to send official observers to the Chechen elections, had sent monitors to polling stations. A Moscow Helsinki Group activist claims that contrary to official reports about the high turnout, the observers “saw little action”. Human rights groups have also reported ballot stuffing, voting by unregistered voters and pressure from local officials.
- Frankfurt book fair refuses to debate Chechnya issue: The Russian journalist and author of “Chechnya: Russia’s Disgrace” and “The Second Chechen war”, Anna Politkovskaya, has been denied the right to hold a discussion on Chechnya by the Frankfurt am Main book fair organisers. Apparently, the Russian authorities had objected to such a debate. (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta)
9 oktober 2003
- MFA comments U.S. statement on Chechen elections; human rights activist: falsification of voting: (i) In a special commentary issued yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry has described the recent U.S. Department of State statement on the Chechen elections as “improper and incorrect” and “totally out of line with the partner spirit of Russia-U.S. relations and by no means contribute to really improving the situation in Chechnya”. (ii) The Moscow Times quotes the Moscow Helsinki Group Executive Director Lokshina as saying that the Group “accused the authorities of staging large-scale falsification of voting to ensure the victory of Kadyrov”. According to Interfax, Lokshina stated that violations at the polling stations in Chechnya “were mainly insignificant”, but that the sharp increase of people who cast ballots to over 80% by the evening was “alarming”. (Interfax, RIAN, www.mid.ru, MT)
- Incumbent Chechen PM accepts offer to stay in the office: Chechen PM Anatoly Popov has accepted an offer by the Chechen president-elect Kadyrov to remain head of the Cabinet. According to Popov, key ministers would keep their posts. (All media)
10 oktober 2003
- Poll on consequences of Chechen elections: According to a public opinion poll carried out by the ROMIR research centre, 21% of respondents believe that the situation in Chechnya will improve after the 5 October elections, while 13% of respondents think that it will worsen. However, 59% of Russians polled believe that it will not change. (Interfax)
13 oktober 2003
- Kadyrov calls for Chechnya’s special economic status; rejects U.S. criticism over elections: Speaking at a press conference in Moscow last Friday, the Chechen president-elect Akhmad Kadyrov stated that he was in favour of economic privileges for Chechnya so that “all the taxes be kept inside the republic till 2010”. He also noted that he would like to set up a Chechen oil company. Kadyrov spoke in favour of the further withdrawal of federal troops from Chechnya and suggested that all republican security departments in Chechnya be subordinate to the Chechen Interior Ministry. He did not rule out that the parliamentary elections in Chechnya could be postponed and rejected U.S. criticism of the Chechen presidential elections. According to Kadyrov, the best course of action now for the Ichkerian/Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov would be “to stand trial” or emigrate. He reiterated that his first decree would be on setting up an investigative commission into the split of the Chechen-Ingush Republic in 1991. He also stressed that the amnesty for separatist fighters would continue. (Interfax, RIAN, Izvestia, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vremya novostei)
- Up-coming events: (i) The Constitutional Court will consider complaints concerning provisions of the federal law on Russian citizens’ electoral rights and their principal guarantees. (ii) The Foreign Minister I.Ivanov will visit Austria and Switzerland on 14-15 October. (iii) The governor-elect of St Petersburg is to be inaugurated on Wednesday. (iv) President Putin is expected to visit Malaysia and Thailand this week. (v) EU Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy will visit Moscow on Thursday. (vi) The Chechen president-elect Kadyrov will be inaugurated in Grozny on Sunday.
14 oktober 2003
- Ingush President says Chechen refugees return voluntarily: At a press conference yesterday in Moscow, the Ingush President Murat Zyazikov stated that Chechen refugees, who are currently living in Ingushetia, may return home absolutely voluntarily. He added that there was no deadline for closing refugee tent camps in Ingushetia. Commenting on the recent statement by the Chechen president-elect Kadyrov on the investigation into the 1991 break-up of the Ingush-Chechen Republic, Zyazikov underlined that he did not see “any options for the re-unification of the two republics”. He also expressed interest in restoring an offshore zone in Ingushetia. (All media)
15 oktober 2003
- CoE SG on work with Russia in Chechnya: In an interview with Interfax, which is also published in today’s Vremya novostei, the Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer underlined that the CoE is interested in the “normalization and democratisation of the situation in Chechnya” and expressed hope that this work will continue,” regardless of whether CoE observers were in Chechnya on the day of elections”. He also noted that PACE officials intend to visit Chechnya soon and explained the refusal of PACE to send its observers to monitor the Chechen elections “mainly by security reasons”. (Interfax, Vremya novostei)
17 oktober 2003
- Putin attends Islamic summit in Malaysia: Speaking at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit yesterday in Putrajaya, President Putin stressed that nearly 20 million Muslims residing in Russia were part of the Islamic world and that the combination of financial, technological and personnel resources of Russia and the OIC member states might become a real factor in international politics. He stated that “terrorism cannot be identified with any religion”, adding that fuelling interethnic and inter-religious conflicts “is probably the most dangerous among contemporary threats”. Putin also thanked the OIC and the League of Arab States for sending observers to the Chechen elections. Media sources highlight that the Chechen President-elect Akhmad Kadyrov was also attending the OIC summit. (All media)
- Losses of federal forces in Chechnya during last 12 months: Some Russian media sources comment on reports by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, which claim that from August 2002 to August 2003 the Russian federal forces lost 4,749 servicemen in Chechnya, more than in any other period since the outbreak of the second Chechen campaign in 1999. Vremya novostei notes that no official comments by the Russian authorities on these figures were available. (Interfax, Ekho Moskvy, Vremya novostei)
24 oktober 2003
- Human rights ombudsman for Chechnya: EU has no basis for criticising Chechen election: Interfax quotes human rights ombudsman for Chechnya Sultygov as saying that the EU has no basis for its criticism of the recent presidential election in Chechnya, referring to a statement made by Italian Foreign Minister Frattini that the EU was still perplexed with the election in Chechnya. Nezavisimaya gazeta analyses the attitude of the U.S. and countries to Russia’s policy in the North Caucasus noting that their criticism of Moscow’s actions in the region is growing (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Izvestia).
27 oktober 2003
- Media on upcoming meeting of FM Ivanov with EU Troika: Interfax quotes the head of the EC Delegation in Russia Richard Wright as saying that the EU Troika and Foreign Minister Ivanov are expected to discuss the recent presidential election in Chechnya during talks in Moscow on 28 October. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko, quoted by Interfax, FM Ivanov and his counterparts plan to discuss a step-by-step changeover to a visa-free travel regime between Russia and the EU, implementation of the Kaliningrad transit agreement and preparations for the November EU-Russia summit. According to Yakovenko, “Russia will draw the European partners’ attention to the problem of the ethnic Russians’ human rights in the Baltic countries” (Interfax).
29 oktober 2003
- Vremya novostei informs on the agenda of the Troika meeting, pointing to Russia’s concerns over the EU tax and duty policy. Vremya novostei and Kommersant point out that the negotiations also touched upon “unpleasant” issues for Russia, namely Khodorkovsly’s arrest and Chechnya. However, in the view of Vremya novostei, Foreign Minister Ivanov could sigh a “breath of relief” as “Europeans did not go too much into detail” on those issues.