The Month in Brief - March 2005

March 1

The Russian Federation continued to be the leading country of origin of asylum applicants in the industrialized countries in 2004, and the majority of asylum-seekers from the Russian Federation are believed to originate from Chechnya, said the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Russian Defence Ministry has about 30,000 servicemen in Chechnya, compared with 50,000 servicemen of the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB), said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov adding that the figures include both Russian and Chechen forces.

March 2

Revenues from the oil mining industry currently account for 70-80 per cent of the budget of the Chechen Republic, said the Moscow-backed Chechen leader Alu Alkhanov.

March 6

Two policemen died in an operation against guerrillas on the southern outskirts of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

March 8

Russian military sources announced that Chechen resistance leader and Ichkerian President Aslan Maskhadov was killed in a special operation in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt. Speculations emerged that Maskhadov had been killed earlier in another place.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, demanding the resignation of the republic's president Aleksander Dzasokhov because of his alleged failure to cope with the Beslan school hostage tragedy in September 2004.

March 9

Chechen commander and Islam expert Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, who heads the guerrillas' Supreme Sharia Court, became a successor to the late Ichkerian President Aslan Maskhadov, Chechen separatists announced on their internet sites Kavkaz-Center and Chechenpress.

March 10

Fifteen people, about a half of them members of the Federal Security Service (FSB), died in a crash of a helicopter near Grozny, announced Russia's Military Prosecutor's Office.

March 13

Moscow-backed Chechen forces killed Kantash Mansarov (or Khanpasha Movsarov, according to other reports), the head of the guerrillas operating in Grozny, according to the Chechen Interior Ministry.

March 14

In his first public statement after his appointment as successor to the late Ichkerian leader Aslan Maskhadov, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev pledged to continue Maskhadov's policies, investigate his death and punish the culprits, avoid using violence against innocent people but use "all methods acceptable to God" against the enemy. The statement was published on the separatist websites Chechenpress and Kavkaz-Center.

March 15

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that it had paid a promised reward of 10 million USD for information leading to the killing of the Chechen guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov.

March 17

Having considered an appeal filed by 21-year-old Chechen student Zara Murtazaliyeva, who was accused of terrorism and in mid-January 2005 sentenced to 9 years in prison, Russia's Supreme Court reduced her sentence to 8.5 years. Russian human rights defenders consider the charges to be fabricated.

The Warsaw City Council decided to name a roundabout on the outskirts of the Polish capital after Jokhar Dudayev, the first Chechen president, who was killed by Russian forces in 1996.

A round table on the preparation of the Chechen parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2005 was organized in Grozny by the Moscow-backed Chechen authorities.

March 18

Hundreds of Chechens and anti-war activits demonstrated in Paris against the ongoing war in Chechnya and the killing of Ichkerian President Aslan Maskhadov. The protest coincided with the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the French capital.

March 21

An event entitled "Round Table" was organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg. Several dozen representatives of PACE, Russia, Moscow-backed Chechen officials, and NGOs discussed - in the absence of representatives of Chechen separatists - the problems of Chechnya and eventually decided to hold similar meetings in the future.

In an interview published by the Swedish news agency TT, Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev warned that his guerrilla fighters would carry out "subversive operations" against Russian targets in Russia and Qatar.

March 22

An Mi-8 helicopter of the Russian Interior Ministry crashed near the village of Oktyabrskoye in the Groznensky district. Two people out of the six-to-ten who were on board later died in the hospital, according to Russian sources.

March 23

Chechen field commander Rizvan Chitigov was killed by the Moscow-backed Chechen forces in the Shalinsky district.

Police lieutenant-colonel Movsredin Kantayev, the head of an operational-investigative bureau of the Russian Interior Ministry, was found dead with gunshot wounds near the village of Petropavlovskaya in the Grozny Rural District.

March 28

Several hundred people gathered near the memorial to victims of political repression in Nazran, Ingushetia, to demand the return of the disputed Prigorodny district from North Ossetia to Ingushetia.

March 29

A Grozny district court sentenced Russian OMON police officer Sergei Lapin to 11 years in prison for beating and torturing a local resident in January 2001. The whereabouts of the victim, Zelimkhan Murdalov, are still unknown.

March 30

A local TV studio started broadcasting in the mountainous Vedensky district, southeastern Chechnya, where the signal of the Chechen state television channel is weak.

Compiled by Prague Watchdog. Along with these monthly summaries, we publish also weekly summaries, distributing them on Mondays within our weekly newsletter.



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