–ETHNIC BRAWL IN NALCHIKIHI
Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel announced on September 24 that a criminal case had been launched in connection with clashes that took place in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, on September 22–23. According to Russian news reports, the violence began as a brawl between Chechen and local students on September 22, and continued the following day after Chechen policemen arrived in Nalchik at the Chechen students’ request. The Regnum news agency reported on September 23 that ethnic Kabard and Balkar students demonstrated near Nalchik University to protest the actions of the Chechen policemen. Shepel, however, insisted that the violence had no political or “inter-ethnic” motives. This was just the latest violence in the Kabardino-Balkarian capital. An attack on Interior Ministry troops in Nalchik on September 18 left one serviceman dead and another wounded. Meanwhile, Kabardino-Balkaria’s parliament on September 28 confirmed Arsen Kanokov as the republic’s president. Kanokov was proposed by President Vladimir Putin to replace Valery Kokov, who resigned as Kabaradino-Balkaria’s president on September 16, officially due to ill health.
–DAGESTANI GAS PIPELINE BOMBED AGAIN
Specialists with Kaspiigazprom are increasingly convinced that the September 23 explosion that destroyed a six-meter-long section of the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline in Dagestan’s Khasavyurtovsky district was a deliberate attack, Kavazky Uzel reported on September 27. While it was initially believed that the explosion was an accident, Kaspissgazprom spokesman Uluby Erbolatov said that they did not find technical defects in the part of the pipeline where the blast took place and that investigators had found elements of an explosive device, including batteries, scotch tape and electric wires near the blast site. In February, a bomb was found attached to the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline near the Dagestani settlement of Uchkent and safely defused. In September 2004, 21 people were wounded when two explosions believed to be bomb blasts hit a section of Mozdok-Gazimagomed gas pipeline north of Makhachkala, setting it on fire.
–MEMORIAL ACTIVIST WINS AWARD
The head of the Grozny office of the Memorial human rights group, Lida Yusupova, has been named the winner of Norway’s Rafto Prize for Human Rights. As Norway’s Aftenposten reported on September 22, the prize committee cited Yusupova for her “brave and unrelenting efforts” to document human rights violations and champion human rights in Chechnya. “Ms. Yusupova struggles to defend human dignity in a chaotic war situation and in a context where the working conditions and security of human rights advocates and journalists are increasingly compromised,” the prize committee said. Yusupova said in comments to Agence France-Presse published on September 27: “Some days I ask myself why I should continue. Nothing changes, people keep disappearing, rights are still trodden over.” According to the news agency, she denounced those “who have blood on their hands” on both sides of the Chechen war, but added: “In spite of all this, I have never stopped believing in justice.” Yusupova will receive the Rafto Prize in a ceremony in Bergen on November 6.