December 31st 2001 · Prague Watchdog · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS

March 2001

Summary of the main news related to the conflict in Chechnya.

March 1

Chechen Minister of Foreign Affairs Ilyas Akhmadov urged the U.S., the EU, the Council of Europe and other organizations to initiate an international war crimes tribunal for the Russian crimes against Chechnya.

March 2

The trial with Col. Budanov was postponed till March 20.

The number of bodies discovered in a mass grave found on February 25 in a suburb of Grozny has risen to 48.

March 3

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igor Ivanov, appealed to the OSCE to return to Chechnya.

March 4

The congress of Chechen refugees, chaired by Ruslan Badalov, head of the National Olympic Committee, urged the United Nations to take control of their homeland.

March 5

Human Rights Center "Memorial" accused Russian troops in Chechnya of summary executions, having published a videomaterial on the recent discovery of a mass grave with some 50 bodies in the "Zdorovie" settlement near the Khankala military base.

March 7

Chechen nationals Ruslan Akhmadov and Badrudi Murtazayev were arrested in the Azerbaijani capital Baku and then handed over to Russia. The couple has been accused of kidnappings and murder.

The number of bodies found in the mass grave discovered on February 24 has risen to 60.

Russian State Duma refused to review the draft bill absolving persons guilty of crimes committed in the Republic of Chechnya in the period of March 25-30, 2000. The proposal tabled by Zhirinovski’s Liberal-Democratic Party was aimed at amnestying Colonel Budanov, the first Russian senior officer to be charged with war crimes.

March 8

The partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya will begin in March, announced Valery Baranov, commander of the federal troops in the North Caucasus.

March 9

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, expressed serious concern over reports of continuing human rights violations in Chechnya.

March 11

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev admitted that U.S. aid worker Kenneth Gluck had been kidnapped by Chechen fighters, and expressed his apology for the "sad misunderstanding", according to a letter partisan site Kavkaz Center published in its March 12 issue.

March 13

The announced reduction of Russian troops in Chechnya has begun by the withdrawal of the 74th brigade.

Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called in Geneva for an end to fighting in Chechnya.

March 14

Russian engineers have finished demining Grozny's Severny airport, the first civilian charter flight is scheduled for March 20.

Russian military aircraft reportedly violated Georgian air space dropping flares at Georgian territory near the Georgian-Chechen border. The incident provoked sharp protests from Georgian officials but was denied by Russian authorities.

March 15

A Vnukovo Airlines craft flying from Istanbul to Moscow and carrying 162 people was hijacked by three Chechens and re-routed to Medina, Saudi Arabia. The Chechen government dismissed any connection with the hijacking.

March 17

Saudi troops stormed the airliner which was hijacked on March 15 and freed all remaining hostages, killing one hijacker and a Russian stewardess. Another passenger was killed during the storming as well.

March 19

The Supreme Court of Dagestan sentenced six people for the apartment house bombing in Buinaksk in 1999. Two men were sentenced to life in prison, two to nine years and two to three years, the latter were immediately freed under standing amnesty.

New Information Department was created within the Kremlin administration, to be headed by Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

March 20

The trial with Yuri Budanov, the first Russian senior officer who was charged with war crimes in Chechnya, resumed briefly to be postponed till April 10.

U.S. State Department said Bush administration plans to have diplomatic contacts with top representatives of the Chechen government.

Former state prosecutor A. Khamzayev sues the Russian Defence Ministry for 235,000 dollars in compensation for the material and psychological damage stemming from the destruction of his house in Chechen town Urus-Martan by Russian military in late 1999.

March 21

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Ilyas Akhmadov, started his visit to the USA.

The first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Chechnya, made up of representatives of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the Russian State Duma, took place in Moscow.

March 23

Unidentified kidnappers abducted former acting head of the Chechen civil administration Yakub Deniyev in Moscow's Mitino district.

March 24

Three bomb-laden cars exploded almost simultaneously in three south Russian towns. Twenty-one people were killed and more than 140 injured in the blasts that took place in Mineralnye Vody, Yessentuki and Adyge-Khabl, located near Chechnya. Russian officials blamed Chechens for the blasts, while representatives of the Chechen government denied any responsibility for the attacks.

March 26

U.S. State Deparment adviser on the Newly Independent States, John Beyrle, met Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, despite Russia’s warning. The purpose of the one-hour meeting was to get information about the situation in Chechnya, the US administration said. Akhmadov dismissed all allegations about Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's possible involvement in the three terrorist acts which took place in North Caucasus on March 24. Also on Monday the US administration resolutely condemned the terrorist acts.

A group of Chechen journalists working in local media (television, the press) published a statement criticising federal information policy in the republic, which has failed to promote peace and stability in the country as well as to create trust of the Chechen nation in the Russian state policy. Federal media do not convey the real picture of the developments in Chechnya by, among other things, failing to report about the abuses of federal forces against peaceful inhabitants and reporting about the casualties among federal troops instead, which provokes new abuses, writes the statement – Interfax.

March 27

The office of Russian President’s aide Sergey Yastrzembsky stated that the USA has embarked on „a policy of double standards“ towards Russia as well as towards the fight against terrorism by organizing a meeting of the US State Department representative John Beyrle with Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov on March 26.

A five-member delegation from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture has lately returned from its March 19-23 visit to Chechnya. The information gathered during the visit will not be disclosed to the public, in line with Article 11 of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture. -- the Committee

March 28

Russian President Vladimir Putin made several changes in the cabinet, including the replacement of Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev with Security Council chief and KGB veteran Sergei Ivanov. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo was appointed head of the Security Council.

Head of the International Parliamentary Group, Algirdas Endriukaitis, accused President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lord Russel-Johnston, of betraying Chechnya twice, namely by failing to call the conflict in Chechnya Russia’s colonial war and by assisting Russia to refrain from using legal means to solve the problem.

Police entered a student hostel in the town of Khimki in the Moscow region and detained there 17 Chechen students of the Moscow University of Arts and Culture. Some of the students were beaten.

March 29

The new Russian nationwide committee ("For the end of the war and implementation of peace in the Chechen Republic"), established in mid-March by prominent Russian human rights activists, and also some Russian writers and politicians, signed "An appeal of the citizens of the Russian Federation to Vladimir Putin and Aslan Maskhadov", in which they call on the two conflicting parties to cut the vicious circle of violence and end the war. The appeal also calls on Russian President Vladimir Putin to „make a brave move by declaring a ceasefire and entering into peace talks with Aslan Maskhadov, the legally elected President of the Chechen Republic.“
The committee includes State Duma deputies S. Kovalyov, B. Nadezhdin, Yu. Rybakov, S. Yushenkov, Ingush President and Russia's Council of Federation deputy R. Aushev, writers V. Astafyev, A. Bitov, A. Vaksberg, V. Yerofeyev, F. Svetov, A. Tkachenko, human rights activists E. Bonner, O. Orlov, L. Ponomarev, Yu. Samodurov, D. Brodsky, and others.

Compiled by Prague Watchdog


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