Current Situation in Chechnya (updated February 2004)
Akhmad Kadyrov, the Moscow-appointed head of administration, had been declared the winner of the presidential election in October 2003. No international observers had taken part and the independent Russian and Chechen human rights observers reported much manipulating with the end results and with voter turnout numbers.
Although Moscow claimed these elections to be “a closure of the peace process,” the safety situation in Chechnya has yet to improve. Chechens are still being intimidated by Kadyrov’s armed security guards, led by his son Ramzan. And according to Memorial, the Russian human rights organization, these guards and the Russian Army are guilty of most of the kidnappings that have occurred in Chechnya (477 in 2003). And Kadyrov also controls the federal budget’s financing that has been earmarked for bolstering the economy and social services, and compensating inhabitants for their demolished houses.
II. Humanitarian Aid
A picture of the “peace process” is somewhat distorted by the thousands of refugees living in neighboring Ingushetia and in Central and Western Europe. No matter how hard the officials insist, they refuse to return to Chechnya claiming concerns for their safety. According to official statistics, about 3,800 Chechen refugees still live in these camps in Ingushetia. One method of exerting pressure on them is by eliminating their names from official lists from which humanitarian aid is distributed. At the end of last year the refugee camp of Sacita was closed, and this month it was camp Bart.
III. Conflicts Spreading
The Russian-Chechen conflict is spreading across Chechen borders. In July 2003 a bomb exploded during a rock concert at the Tushino Stadium in Moscow and 15 people died. Last December, an explosion on a local train in Yessentuki in South Russia took the lives of 45 people; and the recent blast in the Moscow metro killed 59. Russia blamed the Chechen terrorists and accused Aslan Maskhadov of organizing the attacks (although no evidence was ever produced). Yet Maskhadov repeatedly condemns any such terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile in Chechnya, female suicide bombers (known as “black widows”) are being trained, probably under the command of Shamil Basayev. These are young women who lost their husbands during the second war and now allegedly strap bombs to their bodies and detonate them in crowded places. However, members of the Chechen resistance and some Russian analysts place the blame for these attacks on the Russian secret service.
IV. Chances for a Peaceful Solution
Russia still wants to resolve the conflict by the use of power, and refuses to hold any peace talks with Maskhadov, the legally-elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. In March last year Ilyas Akhmadov, Foreign Affairs Minister of CHRI, proposed a peace plan that called for installing a temporary UN administration in Chechnya. Although the plan was supported by 150 delegates of the European Parliament, the Kremlin has totally ignored it.