– Chechen NGOs Under Pressure
Prague Watchdog reported on December 17 that during the past two weeks, the staffs of both the independent Chechen Society newspaper and the Union of Chechen NGOs (SNO) have been evicted from their offices located in the House of the Press building in downtown Grozny. The website reported that the reason given for the Chechen Society eviction was “incorrect” comments made by the paper’s editor, Timur Aliyev, on the recent Russian State Duma elections, and that the SNO office was closed down after the organization’s director, Taisa Isaeva, refused to wear a headscarf, as recently decreed by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. However, Prague Watchdog quoted a House of the Press official as saying in a private conversation with SNO staff that the government’s new press and information minister was not happy with material the organization had posted on its website about violations of human rights and freedoms in the republic. Several other NGOs plan to vacate the premises early next year, mainly because of a sharp rent increases. Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported that the Nazran-based Chechen Committee for National Salvation said in a statement posted on its website on December 14 that the Ingushetian authorities have accused it of violating legislation on registration and financial transparency.
– Ingushetia Residents Arrested in Connection with Bombings
RIA Novosti reported on December 20 that a court had sanctioned the December 18 arrest in Nazran of a resident of Ingushetia, Salanbek Dzakhiev, in connection with the bombing of the Nevsky Express passenger train in Novgorod Oblast on August 13. According to the news agency, two other suspects in the case, Amirkhan Khidreyev and Maksharip Khidreyev, were also detained in Nazran the same day. Ingushetiya.ru reported on December 18 that police from North Ossetia had detained two other suspects in the Nevsky Express bombing, Salambek Zagiev and Bashir Kotiev, during a special operation in Ingushetia that day. Kotiev was subsequently released but Zagiev remained in police custody. Ingushetian security personnel prevented the North Ossetian police officers who arrested the two from leaving the republic, releasing the North Ossetian policemen only after Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov ordered them to do so. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on December 17 that a resident of Ingushetia was detained in Kabardino-Balkaria on suspicion of detonating a bomb on a bus in Stavropol Krai earlier this month that killed two young women and injured 15 other passengers.
– Nine Dagestani Medical Students Reportedly Join Militants
According to an article published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting on December 13, Dagestan has been shocked by the case of nine medical students, some from well-off families, who apparently ran off to join militant Islamic fighters. The article’s author, Remaz Alikhanov, who reported from Makhachkala, quoted Badrudin Shakhmuradov, acting chief of the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s criminal investigations department, as saying: “Even today, fresh people are being attracted into the ranks of the bandits, whose average age is between 20 and 25. People of all ethnic groups, from all regions of the republic and from all income groups are going into the forests.” Shakhmuradov said the more radical recruits were young men who either could not or did not want to find a normal role in society, while others were “military romantics” —young men, often with a good education, who blamed their own problems on others. Alikhanov quoted a young Khasavyurt resident who sympathizes with the radicals as saying: “Sometimes a man disappears at night on the way to the mosque, and in the morning his body is discovered full of bullets in the mountains 300 kilometers away from Khasavyurt. Then his body is shown on the news with an automatic weapon next to it, ‘Wahhabi’ [fundamentalist Islamic] literature, and the map of a school, as though he was planning a terrorist act. The same thing happens in Chechnya and Ingushetia. The government is driving its own people into the forests. Not everyone wants to live in a police state.”