Chechnya marked the sixth anniversary of its declaration of independence from Russia with a military parade through the center of its capital, Djohar-gala. The display, which was watched by an estimated 150,000 people, included captured Russian armor. President Aslan Maskhadov laid the foundation stone for a new presidential palace to replace the Soviet-era building that became the symbolic headquarters of President Djohar Dudaev and was destroyed in the 1994-96 war. (AP, September 6)
In an official statement issued late last week, the Chechen government described as "severe but just" the public executions carried out in Djohar-gala on September 3. The executions by firing squad of a young man and woman aroused controversy both in Russia proper and in Chechnya. The Chechen government said the application of Shariat law was the only way to restore law and order in a society containing some 100,000 armed and unemployed men. A spokesman for President Maskhadov rejected as interference in Chechnya’s internal affairs a statement deploring the executions by the Russian Duma. The speaker of the Chechen parliament, Ruslan Alikhadjiev, asked why the Duma was making a fuss now, when it had been silent over the deaths at the hands of the Russian army of some 120,000 civilians during the 1994-96 war. (Itar-Tass, Russian TV, September 4-5)
The executions also prompted a strong statement of condemnation by the president of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Leni Fischer. She said such executions "are not the way for a democracy to fight criminality and organized crime." (Itar-Tass, September 5) The Russian newspaper Trud commented on September 5 that the fact that the executions had been carried out under Islamic law rather than the Russian criminal code "is further proof of how far the process of Chechnya’s separation from the Russian Federation has gone."
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