President Vladimir Putin signed a decree removing Khachim Shogenov as Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Minister, Kommersant reported on March 20. As the newspaper noted, “the first serious criticism of Gen. Shogenov came after the law enforcement organs in the summer of 2003 let Shamil Basaev, who had been resting in the [town] of Baksan for a month, slip away. The dissatisfaction [with Shogenov] increased in the fall of 2004, when five mosques were closed simultaneously in Nalchik and a wave of detentions of Muslims suspected of ties to extremists and terrorists rolled across the KBR [Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria]. The detainees, who were soon freed, confirmed that the police had beaten them and insulted their religious feelings.” Memorial chairman Oleg Orlov claimed earlier this month that Shogenov was among those inside Kabardino-Balkaria’s government supporting a hardline against the republic’s religious opposition (see Chechnya Weekly, March 16).
At the same time, however, the weekly newspaper Versia reported on March 20 that Kabardino-Balkaria’s law enforcement organs had decided to “widen the front” in the fight against religious extremism in the republic by obligating schoolteachers in Nalchik to discuss religion with their students and “uncover and give warning” of any indications of religious extremism among the students.