Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 23


On June 13, Chechnya’s State Council and government sent a complaint to the Kremlin accusing former Chechen vice-premier Bislan Gantamirov of “trying to discredit the lawful authorities of the republic, and also the policy of the federal center.” Kommersant reported on June 14 that Gantamirov is convinced the Chechen authorities are trying to block his return to Chechen politics. Gantamirov has accused security forces loyal to Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov of raiding his family’s home in Chechnya and trying to extort money from him. Kadyrov, for his part, has charged that Gantamirov was in possession of illegal weapons and maintains contacts with the rebels (see Chechnya Weekly, June 8). Gantamirov heads the Chechen branch of the nationalist Rodina (Motherland) party and plans to participate in Chechnya’s parliamentary elections, which are set to take place in November.


Interfax reported on June 9 that investigators believe the two Chechen men suspected in last July’s killing Paul Klebnikov, the American editor of Forbes magazine’s Russian edition, Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhaev, were also involved in the murder of Yan Sergunin, a former deputy prime minister who served as the late pro-Moscow Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov’s chief of staff in 2001-02. Sergunin was killed by a gunman on a motorcycle outside a Moscow restaurant last June.


The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) with the support of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) published a report on June 13 stating that Russia cannot provide conditions for the safe return of Chechen internally displaced persons (IDPs), asylum seekers and refugees. According to MosNews, the report notes that Chechen IDPs are not granted status as forced migrants; are often denied residence registration and the documents needed in order to access basic rights in Russia; are victims of discrimination and harassment both by private and state actors; and have not been effectively protected against forced returns to Chechnya. It also states that Chechens seeking refuge in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine are denied access to the national asylum procedure and that many are left without any legal rights and almost no humanitarian assistance.

The report raised concerns that the system of asylum and integration in the new EU states, which are receiving large numbers of Chechen asylum seekers, are not up to European standards. According to the report, the number of Chechens seeking asylum in Europe in 2002-2003 increased by 68 percent. In 2003, 828 Chechens received asylum in France, 778 in Austria, 379 in the United States, and 178 in Canada.


The Moscow Times reported on June 15 that investigators believe it just as likely radical Russian nationalists carried out the bombing that derailed a passenger train traveling from Grozny to Moscow as Chechen rebels. The bomb went off underneath the train 150 kilometers south of Moscow on June 12, derailing the locomotive and four passenger cars and injuring three passengers. Interfax quoted explosive experts as saying that the bomb bore similarities to the one used in March’s attack on Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais just outside Moscow, for which three retired military officers connected to nationalist organizations were arrested. One explosive expert said the train bomb was assembled “utterly unprofessionally.” Aleksandr Verkhovsky, a researcher with the Moscow-based Sova think tank specializing in radical nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, told the Moscow Times that neo-Nazis appeared to be most motivated for such an attack. “They may feel that beating dark-skinned migrants on the streets is no longer an effective way to ‘cleanse’ Russian cities,” he said. “Bombing a train coming from the Caucasus sends a much stronger signal and is much easier and safer to do.”


Ingushetia’s parliament on June 14 confirmed Murat Zyazikov as the republic’s president in a 30-1 vote, the Associated Press reported. The vote came four days after President Vladimir Putin nominated Zyazikov for a new term under a new federal law that essentially allows the Russian president to appoint regional leaders.