–GENERAL ADMITS CONTINUING DIFFICULTIES
Less than two weeks after Putin’s triumphant reelection, a key Russian general in effect admitted that the military situation in Chechnya is not nearly as hopeful as the Russian electorate has been told. General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, head of the internal forces of the Russian Interior Ministry, spoke with journalists during the annual March 27 holiday honoring those forces. According to the website Newsru.com, Tikhomirov predicted that the operational situation in Chechnya would become more difficult this spring and summer. “The situation in the Chechen republic is tense at present,” he said, “and we are expecting that in the spring there will be an outburst of illegal actions.” By “illegal actions” he of course meant rebel attacks.
–ERKEL KIDNAPPING SUSPECTS SAID UNDER ARREST
Suspects in the kidnapping of Arjan Erkel are under arrest, claimed Dagestan’s interior minister in an interview with Novaya gazeta published on March 29. Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov provided no further details but said that the authorities have reason to think that Erkel is still alive. The Dutch charitable worker, an employee of “Medecins sans Frontieres” (Doctors without Borders), was kidnapped in the summer of 2002 while under observation by FSB officers (see Chechnya Weekly, March 24); some believe that the FSB knows precisely who is holding him.
–TRIAL IS CLOSED TO MEDIA
The trial of a Chechen woman accused of murdering an FSB explosives expert began in Moscow on March 23. The procuracy requested that the trial be closed to the media, according to a March 24 article in Russky kurier; the defense attorney objected. The court agreed to the procuracy’s request.
–QATAR GRANTS VISAS TO RUSSIAN LAWYERS
The high powered Russian lawyers assigned to defend their countrymen accused of assassinating Chechen extremist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev have finally been allowed to enter Qatar. The Persian Gulf sheikhdom’s embassy in Moscow gave the defense teams visas on March 22, according to a March 23 article on the Gzt.ru website.
–ANOTHER VICTORY FOR KADYROV
The recent firing of General Viktor Kazantsev as presidential representative in the southern federal okrug marked yet another personnel victory for Kadyrov, according to a March 23 analysis on the Gazeta.ru website. Kazantsev’s successor is former St. Petersburg governor Vladimir Yakovlev, whom the website described as a Kadyrov ally.