–BESLAN VICTIMS’ RELATIVES BLOCK HIGHWAY
Hundreds of Beslan residents whose children and grandchildren were killed in last September’s school massacre blocked a section of Rostov-Baku highway on January 20, demanding an objective investigation of the school siege and the resignation of North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov. Dzasokhov met with the demonstrators the following day but did nothing to assuage their anger: according to the Associate Press, he told them he was “not involved in the investigation,” warned against actions that could lead to strife, and said there were unspecified, “invisible” people seeking to use the situation to achieve political goals.” The protesters finally lifted their blockade of the highway on January 22, after Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, promised to meet with them on January 25. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on January 23 that Beslan residents plan to initiate a vote of no-confidence in Dzasokhov. Meanwhile, Nikolai Shepel, a deputy prosecutor general with the Southern Federal District, announced that a third suspect had been detained in connection with the Beslan hostage taking, Interfax reported on January 24.
–CHECHNYA SLATED FOR “THE BROADEST AUTONOMY”?
Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov told Reuters on January 20 that the republic’s pro-Moscow government hopes to sign an agreement with Moscow during the first half of this year that will give Chechens the right to all the republic’s natural resources and taxes and deny Russian forces the right to intervene without Chechen government permission. “A draft agreement is ready, which still needs legal examination. It is ready in the sense that the working group has prepared it completely,” Dzhabrailov said. “President Vladimir Putin has always said Chechnya should receive the broadest autonomy…As for natural wealth and other resources, they will be in the hands of the government of the Chechen Republic.” However, Moskovsky komsomolets claimed on January 24 that reports about the autonomy agreement are “untrue, to put it mildly.” The newspaper quoted “very reliable sources” as saying that Chechnya would be given special status as a region of “intensive economic development” along with tax breaks. “All the rest is a figment of the hyperactive imagination of the Chechen officials who leaked the information to the press,” the newspaper wrote.
–DISTRICT PROSECUTOR TARGET OF BOMB BLAST
Adam Tagaev, first deputy prosecutor of Chechnya’s Achkoi-Martan district was seriously injured and two bodyguards lightly wounded on January 21 when a bomb detonated beneath his car, Itar-Tass reported on January 22. The explosion occurred just after the got into the car and investigators suspect that it was detonated from a distance. Police sources reported that on the same day as the bombing, gunmen believed to be separatist guerrillas fired on a car carrying two members of Chechnya’s presidential security service near the Achkoi-Martan settlement of Davydenko. One of the attackers was killed in the subsequent gunfight but the others managed to escape.
–T.B. RAMPANT IN CHECHNYA
According to Chechen Health Minister Musa Akhmadov, unofficial figures suggest that nearly three times as many people Chechnya have tuberculosis than in the rest of Russia, Prague Watchdog reported on January 18. He also said that Chechnya has more officially registered cases – 28 patients per thousand in Chechnya compared to 26 per thousand in Russia. “Just in the first half of last year, there were more than 500 new cases, ten percent of which were active forms of tuberculosis,” the minister said. “The outbreak of this disease among Chechens began during the years after the 1944 deportations; and our country was in first place in the USSR for total number of infections.” Akhmadov added that the situation is made worse by the fact that the republic has neither the facilities nor sufficient medical equipment to treat everyone infected with TB. “Hospital beds meet only a fifth of the demand; and there are not enough specialists nor even medical equipment such as bronchoscopes and X-rays,” he said.