–SOLDIERS MOTHERS: 2,000 SERVICEMEN MISSING
Valentina Melnikova, head of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committees, believes that 2,000 of the Russian soldiers sent to Chechnya during the two wars remain unaccounted for, Novye izvestia reported on May 17. According the newspaper, the Russian government puts the number of Chechnya MIAs at 630. In explaining this discrepancy, Melnikova said that is usually relatives who search for missing soldiers, while the military authorities view them as deserters. On May 14, President Vladimir Putin named Vladimir Shamanov, former commander of the Western group of federal forces in Chechnya, head of a new inter-agency commission on prisoners of war, internees and disappeared. Melnikova was less than ecstatic about the appointment, noting that mothers searching for their missing sons recall Shamanov’s “couldn’t-care-less” attitude towards his troops.
–NORTH CAUCASUS HIT BY FLOODS
Agence France-Presse reported on May 12 that more than 4,000 people had been evacuated from the homes as a result of flooding that hit Chechnya and Dagestan. The federal authorities have offered financial aid to Dagestan, where 2,400 people, half of them children, were evacuated after 476 houses were hit by the storms that began on May 11. Flooding forced more than 2,000 people in Chechnya to abandon their homes, while some 1,500 people were evacuated in Ingushetia. One refugee camp in Ingushetia was destroyed, leaving 200 displaced people without shelter. Meanwhile, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who traveled to Dagestan in May 12, charged that 300 million rubles – some $10.7 million – earmarked for clearing the Terek riverbed had been improperly used.