Earlier in the week, on January 14, a joint delegation of PACE and the Russian State Duma arrived in Chechnya “to study conditions in the camps for Chechen refugees.” The head of the PACE delegation was Tadeusz Iwinski, rapporteur of that body’s committee on migration, refugees and demography. The Duma representation was headed by Leonid Slutsky. During their visit, the members of the joint delegation were scheduled to meet with Stanislav Il’yasov, premier of the pro-Moscow Chechen civilian government; General Gennady Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District; General Vladimir Moltenskoi, commander of the Combined Group of Russian Forces operating in Chechnya; and Anatoly Ezhkov, chief of the FSB-headed operational headquarters for conducting the “counterterrorist operation” (RIA Novosti, June 14).
The delegation visited a camp for Chechen refugees located in Znamenskoe, in the north of Chechnya; two points for the temporary housing of refugees located in Djohar (Grozny); and the Bart refugee camp in Ingushetia. In its commentary on the visit, Russia’s semi-independent TV-6 network suggested that the Iwinski-led delegation was being treated to something like a Potemkin village. “A special itinerary,” TV-6 noted, “has been arranged for [Iwinski]… Iwinski’s visit will be short. Tomorrow he goes to Ingushetia to see for himself the camps for Chechen refugees. It just so happens that just before Iwinski’s arrival a consignment of aid has been delivered to these camps [in Ingushetia]. It includes things that the people there need desperately–bedding, 255 new tents and 500 stoves” (TV-6, BBC Monitoring, January 14). In similar fashion, a pro-separatist website, Chechenpress.com, wrote: “According to the refugees residing temporarily in refugee tent camps in the village of Znamenskoe, many could not even approach Tadeusz Iwinski, let alone talk to him. Only those who had been trained in advance were allowed to speak to him, and it emerged that many of them did not even reside in the camp” (Chechenpress.com, BBC Monitoring, January 15).
Russian-state controlled media expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the results of the Iwinski delegation’s visit. Iwinski, RIA Novosti wrote on January 14, came to the conclusion that “people [in the refugee camps] are [now] more favorably inclined toward the [pro-Moscow Chechen] leadership and the federal center.” It was also underlined that “Iwinski said that the situation in Grozny now is much quieter than at the time of his previous visit [at the end of the year 2000].” Iwinski is slated to report to the PACE assembly concerning conditions in the refugee camps on January 23 (Strana.ru, January 17).
During the time of his meeting with the PACE-Duma delegation in Djohar, on January 14, Stanislav Il’yasov, the pro-Moscow premier of the Chechen civilian government, announced that “the tent camps for forced migrants in Chechnya are going to be liquidated.” The refugees presently living in them will, he said, be resettled in temporary housing centers located in Djohar, Sernovosdsk and Gudermes (RIA Novosti, January 14). On January 17, the Russian presidential human rights envoy to Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, stipulated that the refugee tent camps in Chechnya “would be closed within the next two months” (Ekho Moskvy Radio, January 18). On the previous day, Kalamanov also maintained publicly that “there is less need for European monitors now in Chechnya.” The marked improvement in the human rights situation there, he said, made it possible for one to think about “changing the format of the Council of Europe presence” in the republic (Itar-Tass, January 16). Kalamanov appeared to be suggesting that the Council of Europe’s tiny mission located in the isolated northern village of Znamenskoe in Chechnya should be shut down in the near future. It has already been announced by the Russian government that the equally tiny Assistance Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also located in Znamenskoe, is to be closed down by the end of 2002. Beginning in 2003, therefore, there may be no Council of Europe or OSCE “eyes and ears” present within the war-torn republic.