– Letter Asks Patriarch for Help in Winning Release of Maskhadov’s Remains
Newsru.com reported on March 19 that a group of human rights activists and other public figures signed an open letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All-Russia, asking him for help in winning the release of the remains of Aslan Maskhadov, the leader of Chechnya’s rebel movement and the republic’s president, to his family for burial according to the religious ceremonies and national traditions of Chechnya. The letter also called for overturning the “barbaric medieval norms” of the law requiring secret burials for terrorism suspects. The body of Maskhadov, who was killed in a Russian special operation on March 8, 2005, was secretly buried in April of that year and, in accordance with the law on terrorism, the site of his burial has been kept secret. The letter, which was written by activists of the Movement against War in the North Caucasus, was signed, among others by Lyudmila Alekseyeva, chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group; the writer Alla Gerber, who is also a member of the Public Chamber and president of the Holocaust Fund; the poets Vadim Zhuk and Lev Rubinshtein; and the singer Iosif Kobzon. On March 20, Interfax quoted Vladimir Vigilyansky, chief of the Moscow Patriarchate press service, as saying that Aleksy II will not lobby Russian authorities to release Maskhadov’s remains to his family for burial.
– Russian Supreme Court Reverses Ruling that Found Balkar Group “Extremist”
Russia’s Supreme Court on March 18 reversed a ruling handed down by Kabardino-Balkaria’s Supreme Court in January 2008 ordering the closure of the Council of the Elders of the Balkar People on the grounds that it was an “extremist” organization. Kavkazky Uzel quoted the chairman of the council’s executive committee, Oyus Gurtuev, as saying that he was happy with the verdict and adding: “We will fight further.”
– Former Russian Chechen Friendship Society Head’s Office Searched
Police seized the computer servers and cell phone of activist Stanislav Dmitrievsky during a two-hour search of his office in Nizhny Novgorod on March 20, the Associated Press reported. Dmitrievsky, whose previous organization, the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, was ordered closed by the Supreme Court last year for allegedly promoting extremism, said prosecutors told him the search was connected to an investigation into alleged extremism involving The Other Russia, the opposition coalition led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov. However, Dmtrievsky said officials were likely looking for copies of a forthcoming book about political prisoners that his current organization, the Nizhny Novgorod Fund for Tolerance, was involved in publishing. He said that prosecutors told him the servers could be returned in a few weeks.
– Kadyrov Promises Cash for Giving Birth on the Prophet’s Birthday
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov will pay $1,000 to every family that gives birth to a child on March 20 to commemorate the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, Interfax reported on March 20. “Money will be given to mothers of the newly-born today in maternity hospitals and maternity departments in Grozny and other Chechen cities and towns,” the head of the republic’s presidential administration and government, Abdulkahir Israilov, told the news agency. According to Interfax, Israilov stressed that “Kadyrov pays close attention to children and families and spares no effort to educate children in normal schools and preserve their health.”