Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 17

In a much-discussed episode, a leading and well-known Russian human rights activist, Viktor Popkov, was severely wounded on April 18 as he was traveling by car through the Chechen village of Alkhan-Kale. Popkov, accompanied by a local doctor, Roza Muzarovaya, and by a driver had been transporting humanitarian aid to Chechen mountain villages. The aid-workers’ car was overtaken by a Zhiguli vehicle, which then signaled it to stop. When the three got out of their car, they were sprayed from inside the Zhiguli by gunfire from an automatic weapon. Despite being wounded (the doctor was also hit), the driver managed to get the car to a nearby Russian military checkpoint. There the soldiers spent a long time scrutinizing the documents of the three bleeding aid-workers. By the time the three were eventually taken to Grozny Hospital No. 9, Popkov, who had been hit in the head and neck, had lost a great deal of blood. On April 20, he was transferred to a military hospital in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia where he is said to be in a comatose condition. Popkov’s numerous friends in Memorial, the International Red Cross and Novaya gazeta, as well as Duma deputies Aslambek Aslakhanov and Yury Shekochikhin, are said to be doing everything possible to attempt to attempt to save his life. Groups suspected of being involved in the attack are said to be “Arbi Baraev’s bandits” and “the Russian special services” (Novaya Gazeta, no. 29, April 23-25).