Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 18


Vladimir Lukin, the Putin administration’s new human rights chief (who is also a former ambassador to Washington), recently recommended that Moscow revive the position of human rights representative for Chechnya that it had abolished several months earlier. The Kadyrov administration has reacted negatively. As quoted in the April 29 issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta, its vice premier, Movsar Khamidov, said that he and his colleagues do not see “any reason for the existence of so-called human rights structures.”


Last week the Chechen newspaper Marsho (“Freedom”) was the recipient of a crude threat to stop writing about corruption in the Kadyrov administration. Armed men wearing the usual masks and camouflage fatigues broke into the house of the newspaper’s deputy editor in the town of Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny. According to an April 29 report by the Prima human rights news agency, the gunmen demanded that the newspaper stop publishing articles about the diversion of funds ostensibly meant to compensate Chechen civilians for their homes and other property destroyed by military action.


The right to hold peaceful street demonstrations suffered a defeat in Moscow last week. The Moscow City Court upheld a district court’s ruling that fined Nikolai Khramov for alleged procedural violations in conducting a demonstration on February 23 to mark the anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechen people – and also to protest the post-Soviet wars in Chechnya. According to an April 29 article by the Prima news agency, Khramov now plans to appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.


Swiss legislator Andreas Gross told Radio Liberty last week that the Russian government has not once allowed him to visit Chechnya since his appointment in July 2003 as special rapporteur on Chechnya for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). However, the Itar-Tass news agency quoted the head of the Russian federal Duma’s committee on foreign affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, as stating that Moscow may now be ready to let a PACE delegation travel to Chechnya.


The Washington-based research center Freedom House released a study on April 30 concluding that Russia now ranks as “not free” in the area of media censorship by the state. The head of the Russian Union of Journalists, Igor Yakovenko, told the radio station Ekho Moskvy on May 3 that this conclusion “corresponds to reality…Over the last few years, we have definitely moved backward both in terms of human rights and of freedom of the press.” Yakovenko especially stressed the problem of self-censorship by editors and reporters.

The Freedom House study placed Russia in 148th place out of 193 countries.


Heavy fighting continued last week in Chechnya according to various media reports. Ruslan Isaev wrote on April 29 for Prague Watchdog that a Russian marine died and two others were “severely injured” after rebel guerrillas blew up their unit with a remote controlled mine; the rebels made good their escape. A Russian military helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in a residential neighborhood in the southern town of Vedeno after being disabled by rebel gunfire from the ground.


A key Chechen ally of the Kadyrov clan survived two assassination attempts during the night of May 2-3, according to an Interfax report. Sulim Yamadaev, who commands a spetsnaz unit in the Kadyrov administration’s forces, was on his way to a council of war with his subordinates in Gudermes when a radio controlled mine exploded near his vehicle. A similar mine attack took place on his way back from the gathering at 2 a.m. The second seriously damaged his car, but Yamadaev himself seems to have escaped unharmed.