President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya says he intends shortly to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and may use the opportunity to ask the leaders of Islamic nations to help his republic with economic aid. April 11 is being named as the likely date for his departure. (Interfax, April 6)
The Russian authorities say they have supplied the Chechen authorities with 3,000 blank passports for Chechens wishing to travel to the Muslim holy places. (ORT, April 3) Special charter flights are planned from Djohar-gala and will fly pilgrims direct to Saudi Arabia. Several hundred Chechen pilgrims have already left by bus, intending to travel overland via Azerbaijan. Some Chechen pilgrims were stopped at the border between Chechnya and Dagestan by Russian border guards who said their passports were not in order, but others have been allowed to proceed. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, April 5-6) Pilgrims are also traveling to Mecca from Kazan, capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan.
Amnesty International Calls on Chechnya to Abandon Sharia Punishments.