On May 6-7, a fact-finding mission of the European Union visited Ingushetia and Chechnya. The mission consisted of the Swedish and Belgian ambassadors to Russia, Sven Hirdman and Andre Mernier, and the chief of representation of the European Commission to Russia, Richard Wright. On May 17, at the summit of the European Union, the three are to inform their colleagues concerning the situation in the North Caucasus region (Kommersant, May 8).
In Ingushetia, the envoys met with President Ruslan Aushev, visited the Sputnik refugee camp for Chechens and traveled to the Kavkaz checkpoint. In Chechnya, they had a meeting with both the prime minister of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, Stanislav Il’yasov, and with Colonel General Valery Baranov, commander of the Combined Group of Russian Forces. Accompanying the EU representatives on their visit to Chechnya were Aleksandr Zdanovich, chief of the FSB’s programs promotion department, and Aleksandr Korobeinikov, a deputy presidential representative to the Southern Federal District (Ekho Moskvy Radio, May 8, translation by BBC Monitoring). The party also visited Hospital No. 9 in Djohar.
Sweden currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the EU, and therefore Ambassador Hirdman served as head of the EU delegation. In a conversation with a correspondent for the Associated Press, Hirdman noted that Chechen refugees in Ingushetia had complained “bitterly” to him about the security situation in Chechnya. “That’s the reason,” he said, “why refugees in Ingushetia do not want to go back, because they feel they are harassed, they feel there are these [Russian] military sweeps and detentions, that men disappear. There is [also] this demand for money everywhere” (AP, May 8). When the EU representatives met with Il’yasov and heard him insist strongly that humanitarian aid should be sent only to Chechnya and not to Ingushetia, they reportedly kept silent concerning what they had earlier heard from the Chechen refugees (Kommersant, May 8). Hirdman noted during the visit that the EU had already appropriated 28 million euros in aid to the refugees and planned shortly to release another 2 million euros for the same purpose (Izvestia, May 8).