– Yedelev: Up to 440 Rebels Active in Chechnya
Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev told a ministerial meeting on February 6 that his ministry estimates “the number of bandits active in the Chechen Republic at up to 440,” RIA Novosti reported. “Over 700 members of illegal armed units and their accomplices have been detained and are now under investigation,” he added. He also said a number of international terrorists are coordinating operations in Chechnya. The news agency quoted President Vladimir Putin, who also attended the meeting, as saying: “Economic and social issues in the region must be resolved, we have to fight unemployment, and redouble the struggle against terrorism. We have to strip the scum [militants] of any local support, we must do this, we are on the right track, all the processes have been launched” (see Mairbek’s Vatchagaev’s article below). Meanwhile, two policemen were killed and one wounded in a clash with rebels in Chechnya’s Vedeno district on February 2. The Associated Press reported that the shootout took place when a group of local policemen were conducting a security raid and confronted a group of rebels. According to Prague Watchdog, the clash took place near the village of Mesedoy.
– Council of Non-Governmental Organizations Faces Closure
The Chechen branch of Russia’s Federal Registration Service is seeking the closure of the Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (SNO), a group which disseminates information about the human rights situation in Chechnya and Ingushetia, Prague Watchdog reported on February 7. The group was initially accused of committing various administrative irregularities, and the charge of “inciting ethnic discord” has now been added. “In recent months our organization has been subjected to numerous inspections by police and taxation officials,” Taisa Isayeva, the director of SNO’s Information Center told Prague Watchdog. “These inspections have even been joined by representatives of the law-enforcement agencies of the Southern Federal District. We are convinced that a deliberate campaign of harassment is currently being conducted against our organization, with the aim of closing it down on apparently respectable pretexts.”