The separatist Kavkazcenter website reported on February 11 that it had received “confirmation” that former Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov had been “taken prisoner.” Various Russian media reported in mid-January that Chechen police had detained Arsanov, but the Chechen Interior Ministry denied the reports.
Kavkazcenter quoted Emir Abdu-Sabur, a rebel field commander operating in Grozny’s Zavodsky district, as saying that Arsanov, who served as Aslan Maskhadov’s vice-president, was detained in mid-January in the village of Chernoreche on Grozny’s western outskirts and was now being held in Ramzan Kadyrov’s personal prison in the village of Tsentoroi. Abdu-Sabur claimed Arasanov’s son had also been taken prisoner by a group of kadryovtsy in Grozny while searching for his father. According to Abdu-Sabur, both men were being subjected to “systematic torture and severe beatings” and that Arsanov had managed to report from the prison that his captors were demanding that he make “statements against Maskhadov and participation in some sort of roundtable in Moscow” – the latter an apparent reference to the roundtable on Chechnya scheduled to take place Moscow in March. The Chechen side at that meeting, which is being organized by Swiss parliamentarian Andreas Gross, who is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s rapporteur for Chechnya, will reportedly be represented only by pro-Moscow figures, including President Alu Alkhanov (see Chechnya Weekly, January 26).
Interfax on February 11 quoted law-enforcement sources as saying that Arsanov had been detained by the Chechen presidential security service – which is led by Ramzan Kadyrov – and that “a warrant for his arrest has not been issued yet.” On February 13, however, Interfax quoted Kadyrov as denying that Arsanov had been detained or was being held in Tsentoroi.