Current Situation in Chechnya (updated February 2005)
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
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
(A/E,T,B) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Current Situation in Chechnya (updated February 2004), (PW, March 19, 2004)