–POLL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR RUSSIAN PULLOUT AND U.N. PEACEKEEPERS
The Caucasus Times reported on March 21 that in a poll of Grozny residents conducted in partnership with Prague Watchdog over March 11-15, 43% of respondents said “the withdrawal of the Russian military from Chechnya” would be the best way to end the war in the republic; 42% answered “the presence of U.N. peacekeepers in Chechnya”; 33% answered “the fight against the leaders of the Chechen resistance”; and 31% answered “negotiations with the leaders of the Chechen resistance” (respondents were allowed to pick more than one answer). An overwhelming majority of the respondents said the war is continuing because of “the actions of the military,” while 32% blamed actions by the rebels and 29% blamed socioeconomic problems.
–APPEAL ASKS PUTIN TO ENSURE RETURN OF MASKHADOV’S REMAINS
A group of Russian human rights activists signed an appeal to President Putin asking for him to ensure that Aslan Maskhadov’s remains are handed over to his family. “The refusal to hand over Aslan Maskhadov’s body for burial according to the customs of the Chechen people is insulting to the majority of the Chechen Republic’s inhabitants and his supporters, for all citizens of Russia who wish to see their country as a strong law-governed state that commands respect in the world,” read the appeal, which was published in Novaya gazeta on March 21. “Such actions can only lead to an escalation of violence and strengthen the position of those who view themselves as Russia’s irreconcilable enemy.” The appeal was signed by, among others, Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseyeva; Andrei Blinushov, Svetlana Gannushkina, Sergei Kovalev and Oleg Orlov of Memorial; and Novaya gazeta military commentator Vyacheslav Izmailov.
–SEPARATIST WEBSITE LISTS DAGESTANI COPS WITH THEIR ADDRESSES
Kavkazcenter reported on March 18 that a videotape of speeches made by the “emir of the Dagestani mujahideen, Rabbani Khalilov, and the emir of Dagestan’s Sharia Islamic Jamaat,” in which the two Islamic militants vow to continue their jihad, is being distributed around Dagestan. On March 17, Kavkazcenter published a list of some 140 Dagestani police officers that the Sharia Jamaat had supplied the website, which includes their addresses. The Sharia Jamaat is believed responsible for the murder of dozens of Dagestani law-enforcers. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded near the office of the Lenin district prosecutor’s office in Makhachkala, newsinfo.ru reported on March 22. According to the website, two cars parked at the building were damaged but no one was injured.
–RUSSIAN TROOPS AND CHECHEN COPS EXCHANGE FIRE
A shootout took place on the outskirts of Grozny between federal troops and Chechen police personnel on March 21, Interfax reported on March 22. The incident apparently took place when Chechen police attempted to halt a Russian column after one of the vehicles in the column ran over a cow belonging to a local resident, who, backed by the police, demanded compensation. A heated exchange escalated into a gunfight in which two Chechen policemen, two local residents and one Russian serviceman were killed.