Current Situation in Chechnya (updated February 2005)

I Safety

In October 2004, Alu Alkhanov, the Kremlin-backed Interior Minister of the Chechen Republic who was proclaimed winner of the manipulated presidential election, took office. The election was organized after the death of the Mocow-appointed Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, killed by a bomb during the Victory Day celebration at the "Dinamo" Grozny stadium on May 9, 2004.

However, the safety situation in Chechnya has yet to improve. Chechens are still being intimidated by federal forces and armed security guards led by Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Akhmat Kadyrov. And according to the Russian human rights organization Memorial, Ramzan‘s guards and the Russian Army are responsible for most of the kidnappings (nearly 400 in 2004) that have occurred in Chechnya.

The circumstances surrounding the abduction of Arjan Erkel, a Dutch aid worker kidnapped in August 2002 in Dagestan and freed nearly two years later (April 11, 2004), still remain unknown. Nor have any details been published about another aid worker, Slovak citizen Miriam Jevikova, who was kidnapped in the Northern Caucasus on June 1, 2004, and freed five months later (November 23, 2004). It is suspected that members of the Russian secret service (FSB) took part in both kidnappings.

According to a June 2004 Amnesty International report, "continuing extra-judicial arrests, kidnappings, torture, rape and killing take place in the Chechen Republic". And as stated in the “World Report 2005“ of the Human Rights Watch presented this January, "Russian troops committed hundreds of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, and tortured detainees on a large scale. They did so with almost complete impunity" and also "Chechen rebels were responsible for numerous direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, both inside Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia."

II Humanitarian Aid

Last year officials kept insisting that Chechen refugees in Ingushetia leave the refugee camps and return to Chechnya. After the closure of the Bella camp at the end of 2003, all other big camps in Ingushetia were closed during 2004: the Bart camp (in March), Sputnik (April) and Satsita (June). Nevertheless, about 15,000 Chechens, officially called “internally displaced persons,“ still live in more than 150 small temporary centers in Ingushetia.

III Conflicts Spreading

The Russian-Chechen conflict continues to spread across Chechen borders. In February 2004, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, the former president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, was killed in Qatar. Two members of the Russian secret service were accused of the murder by Qatar investigators and in June were sentenced to life imprisonment. The Qatar judge claimed they both had acted on the orders of the Kremlin. However, in December 2004, both were extradited to Moscow where they received state honors. Last June, a group of armed guerrillas attacked armed forces buildings in three Ingush cities; 98 people were killed, including 62 members of the military and security forces.

Then, in September, a group of about 30 terrorists seized a school in Beslan, North Ossetia and held more than 1,000 people hostage (incl. pupils, teachers and several parents). Almost 400 people were killed during the battle between the federal soldiers and hostage-takers. In February 2004, a blast in the Moscow metro killed 59 people. The Kremlin blamed Chechen terrorists and accused Aslan Maskhadov of organizing the attacks, although no evidence was ever produced. And in August 2004, another bomb exploded in the nearby Rizhskaya metro station in Moscow that killed ten people. The Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev later assumed responsibility for this explosion as well as for the Beslan tragedy.

IV Chances for a Peaceful Solution

Russia still refuses to hold any peace talks with Maskhadov, the legally-elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. At the end of 2004, representatives of a Committee of “The Union of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia“ announced they were ready to act as intermediaries in a potential dialogue between Russian authorities and leaders of the Chechen resistance. Their meeting with Maskhadov's envoy Akhmad Zakayev was arranged to be held in November in Brussels. However, due to the negative position taken by the Russian authorities, as well as the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this meeting never took place.

Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service (FSB) announced last autumn that anyone who assisted in capturing or killing Chechen leaders Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev would receive a reward of over 10 million dollars.

In February, 2005, Ichkerian President Maskhadov confirmed, via the Russian daily paper, Kommersant and the radical pro-Chechen website Kavkaz-Center, that in mid-January he ordered the resistance to suspend "all offensive military action" during the month of February as a gesture of goodwill. Basayev confirmed that his forces joined Maskhadov's cease-fire order. However, Moscow-backed Chechen officials brushed off these statements as a "bluff" and the Kremlin has remained silent.


 · Current Situation in Chechnya (updated February 2004), (PW, March 19, 2004)


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