Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 11

The widow and children of Aslan Maskhadov, the former Chechen president and rebel leader who was killed by security forces on March 8, 2005, issued an appeal calling for the return of the slain leader’s body. Citing the separatist Chechenpress news agency, on March 10 Ekho Mokvy radio quoted the appeal as stating that while the Russian authorities base their refusal to return Maskhadov’s body on the Russian, “law on terrorism passed not long ago,” Maskhadov, “was never a terrorist.” The appeal further stated, “The issue of burial … is common to hundreds and thousand of Chechen families, who have been robbed of the basic right to say farewell to those who have been killed.” The Maskhadov family called on representatives of the international community to sign on to the appeal, stressing that, “the signatures cannot be interpreted in a political context.”

Ekho Moskvy quoted Chechen separatist emissary Akhmed Zakaev as saying that the Russian authorities’ unwillingness to return Maskhadov’s remains to his family was not based on the terrorism law, but rather on a desire for revenge against Maskhadov. “I am sure that the current Russian leadership under the existing state of affairs will not hand over Maskhadov’s remains,” Zakaev said. “However, we will continue to appeal to international authorities.”

On March 8, the second anniversary of Maskhadov’s death, the separatist website “Daymohk” posted a statement by the ChRI Society of Concentration Camp Inmates calling the Russian government’s failure to return Maskhadov’s body to his relatives “criminal” and, in an apparent indirect referennce to slain separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, urged all Chechens, “to unite in these hard times and openly appeal to the international community with a request to influence the criminal Russian government and make it hand over the bodies of the late ChRI presidents to their relatives.”

On March 10, Mikhail Grishankov, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee, declared that the decision not to hand over Maskhadov’s body to his relatives was lawful. “This is not an act of revenge at all. The law was adopted long before Maskhadov’s death,” Grishankov told Interfax. According to the news agency, he suggested that Maskhadov’s family was not trying to retrieve his bodily remains so much as hoping to find out where and how he was buried. “However, in accordance with Russian law, terrorists’ bodies cannot be released, and their burial sites cannot be made public,” Grishankov said. While the attempts by Maskhadov’s family to retrieve his remains were, “natural and understandable from the human point of view,” Grishankov nonetheless stated that, “the law is the law.” “Such restrictions are in effect not only in this country but in a number of other states as well, and, naturally, nobody will agree to violate the law here. The law will be strictly observed.”