Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 15
–REBELS AND “VOSTOK” FORCES SHOOT IT OUT IN SHALI
The Associated Press, citing Chechnya’s Interior Ministry, reported on April 11 that eight to 10 rebels had fought a gunbattle with Defense Ministry troops the previous day in Chechnya’s southeastern Shali district. According to the news agency, two servicemen from the ministry’s ethnic Chechen Vostok battalion died in the fighting and four others were wounded. One militant was killed and the others escaped into the forest.
–CONTRADICTORY REPORTS ABOUT NALCHIK EXPLOSIONS
Interfax reported on April 12 that a serviceman was killed in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, when unidentified attackers fired two shots from a grenade launcher at the headquarters of a district department for combating organized crime. The news agency, citing Interior Ministry sources, reported that the grenade launcher was fired from a private house. Itar-Tass, however, citing sources in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Ministry, reported that a preliminary investigation found that a sentry had accidently fired the grenade launcher, which he was using to guard the headquarters, and that he himself was killed. The separatist Kavkazcenter website on April 12 quoted what it said were eyewitnesses in Nalchik, including a woman who described hearing explosions and was told—presumably by police—to go home because a “war” was going on. The Regnum news agency quoted residents of apartment buildings near the district’s anti-organized crime headquarters as saying they saw a car burning on the headquarters’ grounds after hearing two explosions.
–UNHCR CHIEF VISITS NORTH CAUCASUS
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said on April 11 that the UNHCR will open an office in Chechnya as soon as security conditions allow, the UNHCR reported via Reuters AlertNet. “Our staff is anxious to work in Chechnya,” he told a press conference in Moscow after a six-day visit to Moscow, St. Petersburg and three republics in the North Caucasus—Chechnya, Ingushetia and North Ossetia. “Our partners are very skilled and reliable, but if we can be present also we will be able to provide more effective protection and assistance to returnees. We are ready to open an office in Chechnya as soon as security permits it.” The UNHCR has offices in Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia and Nazran in Ingushetia. Speaking about the problems faced by refugees and internally displaced persons in the North Caucasus, Guterres said: “The remaining problems in the North Caucasus can only be solved first by efforts of the federal authorities, then the authorities of each republic as well as the international community.” On April 6, the European Commission announced an aid package worth 22 million euros ($27 million) for the victims of the conflict of Chechnya, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.