Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 22

Kadyrov’s Order to Move Memorial Sparks Controversy

Chechens have criticized the decision of their president, Ramzan Kadyrov, to dismantle a memorial in Grozny to the victims of Soviet repression. Agence France-Presse reported on June 4 that Kadyrov ordered the memorial, which consists of hundreds of tombstones and a huge dagger in a clenched fist, relocated from the center of the Chechen capital to its outskirts, within sight of the main Russian military base. The memorial, which recalls Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s deportation of the Chechen and Ingush people in 1944 and features the message “We will not break, we will not weep, we will never forget” emblazoned on a brick backdrop, was erected by Dzhokhar Dudaev in the early 1990s. Reuters on June 3 quoted Kadyrov as saying he wants to build a new monument. “The original place for the memorial was not very convenient,” Kadyrov said in comments distributed by his press service. “The new location will include a place for ceremonies, a mosque and a composite history of the subject. An obelisk will be built with all the names of the people who died in the relocation of the Chechens.” Reuters quoted Grozny resident Zaur Timerbaev as saying: “I’m outraged. To move such a monument you should ask the people. There should be a referendum. This is a catastrophe.” AFP quoted Natalya Estemirova, who works with the Memorial human rights group in Grozny, as saying: “It’s really the only true monument to the people. When it went up, Chechens could finally talk about the deportations. People wanted so much to commemorate all those that never came back. For years that had been forbidden and the pain was suppressed.” She added that relocating the monument near the Russian military headquarters of Khankala, which is linked to torture allegations, is an insult. “Everyone here knows very well what Khankala stands for,” she said.

Politicians Shot in Ingushetia and Karachaevo-Cherkessia

Unknown gunmen fired on a police checkpoint in Ingushetia’s Malgobeksky district on June 2, wounding a sergeant in the republic’s road patrol service, Aslan Kartuev, Interfax reported. The attackers, thought to number four or five, fired small arms and grenade-launchers at the police post from a distance of 400-500 meters for three to five minutes. The republican Interior Ministry denied initial reports that Kartuev was killed in the attack. On May 30, Vakha Yevloev, a former deputy in Ingushetia’s parliament and a cousin of the republic’s ex-president Ruslan Aushev, was shot and wounded in Nazran by unidentified attackers. According to, Yevloev was a world champion free-style wrestler and member of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) who supported Ingushetia’s current president, Murat Zyazikov, the republic’s controversial presidential election in 2002, in which Zyazikov defeated Ruslan Aushev amid widespread charges of fraud. Meanwhile, a deputy in the parliament of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Murat Akbaev, was shot and killed by unknown assailants in the republic’s capital, Cherkessk, on June 1, Interfax reported.

Relatives of 1999 Apartment Building Bombing Victim Call for a New Probe

Two sisters who lost their mother in one of the three September 1999 bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, which together killed 292 people and were blamed on Chechen separatists, have written an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev urging him to launch a fully open, independent investigation of the bombings. In the letter, which was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 30, Tatyana and Alyona Morozov, who now live in the United States, wrote that while the bombings “were blamed on Chechen terrorists and used to justify the resumption of a full-scale war against Chechnya later that month, there are numerous indications that Russian security services may have been involved,” as well as “clear evidence of a cover-up by the authorities.” They noted, among other things, that on September 23, 1999, police arrested three Federal Security Service (FSB) agents who had planted a detonator and RDX – the same explosive used in the earlier bombings – in the basement of a residential building in the city of Ryazan, and that the FSB explained the agents’ activities as a “training exercise,” claiming the sacks of explosives actually contained only sugar. They also wrote that Mark Blumenfeld, the property manager of their building on Guryanova Street in Moscow that was blown up, said that FSB agents had pressured him into “identifying” Achemez Gochiyayev, a Chechen he had never seen before, as the man who had rented storage space in the building’s basement. The sisters also noted that four people investigating the FSB’s possible involvement in the bombings – Duma deputies Sergei Yushenkov and Yury Schekochihin, journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko – were murdered.

Another Suspect in Politkovskaya Murder Released

Russian investigators on June 3 cleared Shamil Buraev, a former head of Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district, in the October 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Reuters reported that Buraev was released on bail under a signed bond not to leave his registered address after prosecutors said he posed no obstacle to further investigations. Buraev is the fourth suspect recently released out of nine people linked to Politkovskaya’s murder. Investigators said four men remain in custody.