Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 26

Kremlin Officials Visit Chechnya

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin and his deputy, Vladislav Surkov, made a surprise visit on June 26 to Chechnya to discuss local governance and economic sustainability with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, the Moscow Times reported on June 27. “Clearly the republic’s economy is moving forward, but there are still more problems unsolved than solved,” Interfax quoted Naryshkin as telling Chechen officials, adding that the 120 billion rubles ($5.1 billion) in federal funds earmarked for Chechnya’s development over the next four years (North Caucasus Weekly, June 26) should be used “efficiently.” According to the Moscow Times, Naryshkin criticized the absence of functional municipal government structures, saying in televised remarks that Kadyrov’s government—rather than local officials—is essentially running towns and cities and that some 2,500 trained specialists are needed to improve local governance. Kadyrov said he had already signed several decrees aimed at boosting the effectiveness of municipal authorities and that the Chechen parliament had passed 20 laws on the issue.

Chechnya Introduces Chechen-Language Math Classes

The Associated Press reported on July 2 that following Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s calls for wider use of Chechen language in education, the republic’s education minister, Anzor Muzaev, announced that Chechnya’s schools will begin teaching mathematics in Chechen starting with the first grade. “We must take responsibility so that our children don’t lose our traditions and our native tongue,” Muzaev said. According to the news agency, the decision, which will apparently make Chechnya the first area in Russia to teach a major subject in public school in a language other than Russian, has drawn criticism from schoolteachers and parents in Chechnya who are concerned that a hasty transition to the native tongue could hurt the quality of education and make it more difficult for the Chechen children to adapt in other Russian provinces.

Documentary on Vostok Battalion Sparks Controversy

On June 27, Chechen state television showed a documentary film about the Vostok battalion that featured interviews with former battalion members and victims of the battalion’s actions, Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 28. Ruslan Yamadaev, the former State Duma deputy who is the brother of Vostok battalion commander Sulim Yamadaev, told the website that the film was part of a “propaganda campaign.” Kavkazky Uzel quoted an employee of the television company as saying that the initiative to make the documentary came from the Chechen government’s press service. “In the film there are some details about the work of the Vostok battalion, commentary and opinion from people whose relatives were kidnapped,” the employee said. “There is commentary about mass graves [allegedly of Vostok victims-NCW], but it is not confirmed with pictures. All the material is from the television archives and the government’s press service.” The website quoted an unnamed human rights activist who, while not doubting that Vostok has committed human rights abuses, asked why they are only being discussed now. Kavkazky Uzel also quoted ordinary Chechens – who also did not give their full names – who suggested the film was part of a politically motivated campaign against the Vostok battalion.

Suspected Murderer of Politkovskaya Reportedly Hiding in Europe

Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin announced on July 1 that the Chechen man suspected of murdering award-winning journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Rustam Makhmudov, is believed to be hiding somewhere in Western Europe. Makhmudov’s younger brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, have been charged with involvement in the murder and are in custody, while a fourth Makhmudov brother was released from custody in May but ordered not to leave Russia. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said on July 2 that Rustam Makhmudov “has been the subject of an international arrest warrant since 2001 for crimes committed in Russia” and that it is not known which country he is in, Agence France-Presse reported. Some Russian media reported that Rustam Makhmudov is hiding in Belgium and that Russia has already requested his extradition. reported on July 3 that lawyers for Politkovskaya’s family is demanding the prosecution of officials who have leaked information about Makhmudov’s whereabouts. As AFP noted, Politkovskaya’s former colleagues have voiced dissatisfaction with the investigation of her murder, saying much remains unexplained.