Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 1 Issue: 1

Meanwhile, in Ingushetia, as another North Caucasus winter approached, Aleksandr Blokhin, Russian nationalities and migration minister, reported at a news conference that there were currently 122,451 refugees in Ingushetia, many of them living in tents and railroad cars, who would not be able to withstand another winter, while there were an additional 181,600 displaced people remaining in Chechnya in desperate need of relief. Blokhin noted that no one in the Russian government had expected that the refugees would have to spend a second winter in the camps, that is, it had been expected that the war would be over by this date.

In an interview with Russia’s private NTV television network, two German journalists, Tomas Abenarius from the Suddeutsche Zeitung and Florian Hassel from the Frankfurter Rundschau, provided documented evidence obtained from the pro-Moscow Chechen administration of Akhmad Kadyrov detailing the fate of nine Chechens abducted from the village of Dzhalka east of Grozny by various Russian forces in September. According to Kadyrov’s office, five of these people had been found “with their eyes and ears missing,” Hassel said. This report appeared to constitute additional evidence of the increasing degradation and loss of self-control of the much-oppressed Russian forces serving in the republic.

According to RIA Novosti, the Russian Foreign Ministry has strongly protested the meeting last week of Ilyas Akhmadov (foreign minister in President Aslan Maskhadov’s separatist Chechen government) with “a high-ranking representative of the U.S. Department of State.” Akhmadov did not name the official he met with or disclose details of their conversation, but he did note that the meeting, which occurred outside the premises of the State Department, lasted for five consecutive hours. The Russian Foreign Ministry opined that meeting with representatives of “people whose reputation is smeared with terror, violence and banditry” is no way to facilitate the attainment of a long-term Chechen political settlement.

Lastly, on October 14, the Chechen Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by the aforementioned Ilyas Akhmadov, “under the direct orders of President Aslan Maskhadov,” issued an urgent press release refuting information carried by both the Russian Interfax news agency and the Kavkaz Centre (a mouthpiece for radical Islamic elements in Chechnya), based on information received from the Russian FSB, that Chechen commanders were preparing to send fighters to the Middle East to serve on the anti-Israeli side. This information is termed “a groundless lie.” The official position of the Maskhadov government is to support a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis, and the opening of talks in Egypt on October 16 is warmly endorsed.