Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 10

On March 25, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed that the French ambassador to Moscow, Claude Blanchemaison, had, on March 15, been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow and informed of the displeasure of the Russian government over the fact that a seminar, entitled “Chechnya: Between Europe and Russia,” had been scheduled to be held in Paris on March 22-25, “discreetly supported by [minister of public education] Jack Lang and by the Greens of the Mayor’s Office of Paris,” an event in which Chechen separatist spokesmen were to participate (Liberation, March 26). The following day, the Russian Foreign Ministry released the text of its official protest against the holding of this seminar (RIA Novosti, March 26). On March 25, the Russian website published an account of the proceedings of the seminar that had appeared that same day in the French newspaper Le Figaro.

In her presentation to the seminar, Libkhan Bazaeva, chair of the Memorial office in Nazran, Ingushetia, told those in attendance that “practically every day she travels to Chechnya to confirm the commission of a new crime. The sum total of these visitations is nothing other than a long list of horrors and tragedies.” On March 2, she recalled, citing just one example, “Russian soldiers approached four young Chechens who were warming themselves and took them away under the pretext of checking their documents.” Two days later, Russian television announced that four young terrorists who had organized an ambush had been killed in an exchange of fire with federal forces. The bodies, which she was later shown, had been disfigured with a knife, the victims had had their hands tied behind their back, and the ear of one of them had been torn off. “This crime,” Bazaeva emphasized, “remains unpunished, and no one will seek out the guilty Russian soldiers.” The Chechen separatist minister of health, Umar Khanbiev, expressed his belief that the Kremlin was planning “a final solution” for the Chechen problem (Le Figaro, March 25).