–ALKHANOV RIDICULES MASKHADOV’S SUCCESSOR
Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said that he knew nothing about Aslan Maskhadov’s successor, Sheikh Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, and that the Chechen Interior Ministry had no information about him. “I have never heard of this person before, and I am not the only one,” Itar-Tass quoted Alkhanov as saying. “This person decides precisely nothing.” Alkhanov also said he believed that the number of rebels in Chechnya is not “1,000 or more, as some media claim,” but “less and far less.” “I haven’t counted gunmen, and nobody has counted them, but I’m certain that their number is not so big as it seems to some,” Alkhanov said. He added that 7,000 rebels had defected in recent years and now “serving their people, some in police and some in other law enforcement agencies.” Alkhanov admitted, however, that the rebels maintain “a certain moral support base” in the republic.
–INVESTIGATORS FIND BULLET HOLES IN DOWNED CHOPPER
A source on the commission set up to investigate the crash of an Mi-8 helicopter in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district on March 10 told Interfax on March14 that several bullet holes were discovered in the wreckage of the helicopter’s tail. “Specialists on the effects of fire have joined the investigation and will have to find out whether these holes were the result of an attack from the ground or the detonation of the ammunition that was onboard during the fire,” the source said. The preliminary investigation of the crash, which killed fifteen people and injured two, indicated that the helicopter crashed when its rotor blades got entangled with power transmission lines. On March 11, Interfax cited military sources as saying that servicemen of regional FSB branches and an FSB special-purpose unit who were sent to the North Caucasus to fight terrorism were on board the helicopter when it crashed. An FSB source told the news agency that among those killed were seven officers from the FSB branch in Khabarovsk.
–CHECHEN MILITARY COMMANDANT’S OFFICE ATTACKED
Sources in the Chechen military commandant’s office in Grozny confirmed on March 15 that the office had been attacked the previous day, dismissing earlier reports that the gunfire was the result of the improper use of weapons. “It is absolutely clear that the military commandant’s office and adjacent areas, where the Chechen FSB department is situated and a temporary group of Russian Interior Ministry troops is stationed, came under fire,” the sources told Itar-Tass. They said two grenades went off near a Vneshtorgbank branch situated near the military commandant’s office, that two more grenades hit the roof of a neighboring building and that three grenades fell onto the grounds of the military commandant’s office. One grenade hit the territory of the FSB department and one more hit the area where interior troops are stationed. Seventeen people, including two civilians, were wounded in the attack.
–SAMASHKI RESIDENTS ANNOUNCE HUNGER STRIKE
Residents of the town Samashki in Chechnya’s Achkoi-Martan district launched a hunger strike on March 11, demanding an end to the war, the start of peace talks and the withdrawal of troops from Chechnya, Kavkazky Uzel reported, citing the Council of Non-Governmental Organizations. According to the website, the hunger strike’s organizers did not want to name who was involved in the action out of fear of “punitive-repressive measures by representatives of the current Chechen authorities.”