Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 179

At least four people were killed yesterday after Russian forces fired on the bus they were traveling on in the suburbs of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital. According to the human rights group Memorial, the troops were passing by in an armored column when they unexpectedly opened fire on the passenger bus. According to eyewitnesses, three passengers died at the scene and the driver of the bus died on the way to the hospital. Among the dead was a woman with a three-month-old baby. The incident was not the only crime committed by Russian servicemen this week. On September 25, a Chechen couple was killed when a Russian artillery shell hit their home. The couple’s three children, ranging in age from eighteen months to eight years old, received minor wounds and burns. Yesterday, in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, near the village of Barsuki, a Russian BTR (armored personnel carrier) opened fire on a KamAZ automobile, seriously wounding the driver. The BTR’s crew was detained and the local law enforcement authorities have opened an investigation into the incident (Radio Liberty, September 26; Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 27).

In general, the situation in Chechnya has not changed significantly in recent days. Chechen rebel units continue to carry out attacks and acts of sabotage, mining roads and firing on Russian troops. On the evening of September 25, a position held by Russian internal troops near the village of Alkhan-Kala came under heavy fire. According to Russian military sources, the troops managed to repel the attackers without suffering any loses. The situation in the town of Argun, located some twenty kilometers from the Chechen capital, remains difficult. According to the Russian military, a Chechen rebel force numbering around sixty remains in Argun (Radio Liberty, September 25).

Meanwhile, Chechnya’s Supreme Sharia Court last week rendered the verdict that Aslan Maskhadov, the republic’s elected president, must be removed from power. The court reached its decision in a session presided over by Akhmad Kadyrov, the republic’s Mufti and head of its provisional administration. The judges accused Maskhadov of having started the second Chechen war. Maskhadov’s reaction to the decision came this week: On September 25, his press service quoted him as saying that those who attached their signatures to the court decision in fact are not members the Supreme Sharia Court. The Chechen president was apparently referring to the fact that he fired the judges last fall, for not having fulfilled their duties and for “cowardice.” Maskhadov was quoted as saying that his own legitimacy has been confirmed by the international community and cannot be brought into question by “fabrications” coming from members of Kadyrov’s “entourage”–meaning the former Sharia judges (Radio Liberty, September 25).

It should be noted that according to both Chechnya’s constitution and Sharia, the republic’s president does not have the right to remove members of the Sharia court who, like the republic’s mufti, are elected by a congress of Muslims. On the other hand, the Sharia judges who removed Maskhadov from power are close allies of Kadyrov, who transformed from a rebel leader to an ally of Moscow. It is possible that those Chechens who support the resistance will call a congress of Muslims and elect both a new Mufti and members of the Sharia court.