Chechnya’s interior minister, Kazbek Makhashev, flew to Moscow yesterday, where he hopes to meet with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Kulikov, and to set up a joint committee to look for POWs and MIAs in Chechnya. (Itar-Tass, January 13) Reliable data on this issue are hard to come by. Russia’s presidential administration says some 3,000 people on both sides remain unaccounted for and that 500-600 of these are Russian servicemen. There are also 370 bodies awaiting identification in a Rostov mortuary, while 200 Russian servicemen are thought to be buried in mass graves in Chechnya. It is believed that an additional 200-250 Russian soldiers are being held hostage. Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin has called on the Russian parliament to amnesty all those who fought in the Chechen war, arguing that this would speed up the release of captives. The Duma is dragging its feet since it would mean the release of 1,340 Chechens being held in preventive detention all over Russia. (Itar-Tass, January 11; Interfax, January 13)
Data on war casualties are being gathered by the human rights organization Memorial, led by Sergei Kovalev. The indomitable Kovalev, who underwent heart surgery last year in the U.S. and has just recovered from a bout of the flu, plans to go to Chechnya on Thursday to try to persuade the Chechen authorities to allow refugees outside the republic to vote in the elections scheduled for January 27. (Itar-Tass, January 13)
Cossacks, Chechens Meet to Defuse Tensions.