Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 82

On April 25, a building belonging to the Chechen republic’s anti-organized crime unit (an elite unit of the Chechen police force that it subordinated to the federal forces) in the city of Gudermes was blown up, killing five people and wounding six. Akhmed Dakaev, head of the Chechen police’s headquarters, claimed the bombing was carried out by Chechen rebel leaders, but that the bombers were assisted by members of the anti-organized crime squad itself. On the same day, the security forces in Chechnya managed to prevent a major terrorist attack aimed at the republic’s pro-Moscow leadership. Members of the security detail for Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the republic’s pro-Moscow administration, found a car filled with 120 kilograms of TNT near the new administration building in Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital. Kadyrov had been set to attend an April 25 ceremony marking the opening of the building (Kommersant, April 26; see the Monitor, April 25).

The war in Chechnya, it appears, has claimed yet another victim. Brice Fleutiaux, the French photographer who was a hostage in Chechnya from October 1999 until July 12, 2000, has committed suicide. Fleutiaux was freed–reportedly as a result of a counterterrorist operation, though the circumstances surrounding his release have never been fully explained–and then taken from Chechnya to Moscow, where he later met with President Vladimir Putin. Fleutiaux subsequently wrote a book about his captivity in Chechnya. According to the publishers of his book, the photographer had cancelled planned radio and television appearances timed to coincide with the release of his book because of a deep depression resulting from his experiences as a hostage in Chechnya (EFE, Russian agencies, April 26).

Meanwhile, some 300 people gathered at Moscow’s Pushkin Square yesterday to protest the war in Chechnya. The speakers, who included members of the human rights group Memorial, called for a negotiated end to the conflict. The action was in marked contrast to other recent actions in the Russian capital, including a spate of racially motivated attacks timed to coincide with Adolf Hitler’s April 20th birthday. On April 21, an 18-year-old Chechen man was stabbed to death by skinheads outside the Manezh shopping mall. Putin subsequently urged police to take steps to protect minorities (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow Times, April 24).

Memorial and other human rights organizations, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, have signed an open letter to Putin urging him to stop the relocation of Chechen refugees back to the republic. The Chechen government plans to return all 35,000 Chechen refugees currently living in camps in neighboring Ingushetia by the end of the year. Many Chechen refugees have expressed fears of returning home because of the deteriorating security situation there–a result of increasing terrorism by Chechen rebels, but especially growing lawlessness by Russian troops, whom are accused, among other things, of extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings (Radio Liberty, April 26; Moscow Times, April 26-27).