–WEEKLY RESUMES ITS CRITICISM OF KREMLIN’S CHECHNYA POLICY
Though Russia’s electronic broadcast media are increasingly timid about Chechnya, the reformist weekly Novoye Vremya is back in action after an ownership dispute forced it to suspend publication—and is once again publishing severely critical articles about the Kremlin’s polices. A June 13 commentary by Vladimir Voronov noted that even though the Putin administration has stopped publishing official totals of military casualties, it is possible to piece together accounts of individual actions. The cumulative total of admitted deaths of federal troops in such news stories comes to more than 100 since January, along with at least 150 wounded. Thus “over five months an entire battalion has been wiped out…without considering the constant losses of the local security forces…And that is only the number [of casualties] from open sources, those which are publicly admitted.”
Voronov also reminded readers that the 20-year prison sentence recently given to Zarema Muzhakhoyeva almost certainly amounts in practice to a death sentence. He cited the recent cases of rebel guerrillas who have died mysteriously while in captivity: Salman Raduev, Turpal-Ali Atgeriev, Lechi Islamov. Having deliberately failed to carry out her suicide-bomber mission in Moscow (see Chechnya Weekly, February 11) and having “saved perhaps tens of peaceful civilians,” argued Voronov, she should have received more merciful treatment from the court.
–UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE HAS KILLED HUNDREDS
A United Nations agency estimated last week that since 1995 some 704 people, not including military or police personnel, have died in Chechnya from explosions of mines or of previously unexploded bombs or artillery shells. Another 2,553 people were injured, according to the June 11 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
–RAMZAN KADYROV INDIRECTLY ACCUSED OF INCOMPETENCE
Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky made a statement on June 10 that might be interpreted as another warning shot at Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. According to the Newsru.com website, Fridinsky said that “lack of professionalism” on the part of the security service guarding Grozny’s Dinamo stadium last month was one of the reasons that the May 9 attempt on Akhmad Kadyrov’s life was successful. The security service, of course, ultimately reports to the late Akhmad’s son Ramzan. The elder Kadyrov was killed when a bomb exploded under a reviewing stand during a Victory Day celebration.
–BUDENNOVSK MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 1995 ATTACK
On June 14, the town of Budennovsk in southern Russia observed the ninth anniversary of what one might consider the last decade’s only successful act of terrorism by Chechen separatists—the only one that actually helped the cause of Chechen independence, at least in the short run. The 1995 raid on Budennovsk led by warlord Shamil Basaev led to a cease-fire which made possible the subsequent withdrawal of federal forces and the short-lived, de facto independence of the republic in the late 1990s. But as so often in history, terrorism proved to be habit-forming, to cast doubt on the moral legitimacy of the terrorists’ own cause, and to provoke even harsher responses in a seemingly endless downward spiral of revenge and counter-revenge.
According to a June 14 broadcast on Ekho Moskvy radio, a memorial service took place at the town’s municipal cemetery, prayers were chanted for the raid’s 129 fatalities, and candles were placed at their graves.
–FIVE FEDERAL SERVICEMEN KILLED OVER 24-HOUR PERIOD
Five federal servicemen were killed in combat with rebel guerrillas in Chechnya during a 24-hour period ending on June 12, an anonymous official of Grozny’s pro-Moscow administration told the Associated Press. There were a total of 18 rebel attacks on Russian positions during that period, he said.
Also killed, according to the same source, was Bagrudi Umarov, head of the police patrol service in Grozny for the pro-Moscow administration. He and two of his subordinates were blown up by a bomb which exploded underneath their car.
During that same period, said the anonymous official, at least 300 Chechens were detained in security sweeps.