–PUTIN CONCERNED ABOUT CAUCASUS EXODUS
President Vladimir Putin expressed concern over the exodus of the Russian-speaking population from the North Caucasus during a May 25 meeting of Cossack leaders in Rostov Oblast. “As for the exodus of the Russian population from the North Caucasus, it is a problem for the whole North Caucasus, and not just for Russians – although, perhaps…most of all for Russians,” RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying. “Russians lived on those territories for centuries, and the leadership of the republics of the North Caucasus understand that it is also a problem for those representatives of other peoples who remain on that land to live.” Vassily Bondarev, ataman of the Tersk military Cossack association, told Putin that the exodus of Russians from Chechnya and Ingushetia “has reached threatening numbers and today is, in fact, irreversible.” Bondarev claimed that in the 1990s, more than 20,000 Russians were killed in Chechnya and Ingushetia and more than 650,000 made refugees, Interfax reported.
–CHECHENS ARRESTED AS ACCOMPLICES IN VAN GOGH MURDER
Dutch prosecutors announced on May 26 that two Chechens had been arrested in France and the Netherlands in connection with last November’s murder in Amsterdam of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the Associated Press reported. The news agency quoted Dutch prosecution spokesman Rob Meulenbroek as identifying the two suspects under Dutch privacy rules only as Bislan I., who was arrested in Tours, France, on May 18, and Marad J., who was arrested in Amsterdam on April 19. The BBC on May 26 identified one of the suspects as Bislan Ismailov, a 25-year-old Chechen who is accused of being an accomplice of Mohammed Bouyeri. A Dutch Moroccan, Bouyeri is now awaiting trial on a charge of murdering Van Gogh and belonging to a group of Islamic fundamentalists that prosecutors have dubbed the Hofstad network. According to Meulenbroek, the two Chechens are suspected of having ties to the Hofstad network.