Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 21

Kavkazcenter reported on May 29 that an “official delegation of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria headed by Umar Khanbiyev, the minister of health of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the general representative of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in foreign countries, held a number of meetings with deputies, parties and political groups of the European Parliament” in Brussels on May 24. According to the separatist website, the delegation also included Danilbek Abdul-Muslimov, advisor of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria on international relations and deputy general representative of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in foreign countries; Selim Beshaev, first deputy speaker of the parliament of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria; Rakhman Dushuev, authorized representative of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in European countries; Khizir Ibragimov, director of the antiterrorist center under the separatist Chechen president; and Islam Bashirov, authorized representative of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the Netherlands.

As reported by Kavkazcenter, the delegation tried to convince European Parliament members of the need to change the EU’s attitude towards the Russian-Chechen war given “the expansion of the bloody conflict across the whole of the North Caucasus, of which the Chechen side had repeatedly warned in the past.” The delegation said the international community, including the Council of Europe and the EU, has “a share of responsibility” for the war’s spread, “especially considering their connivance on the issue of the genocide of the Chechen people,” Kavkazcenter reported. Given the “huge concentration of Russian occupying formations in the Russian-Chechen war zone, the violence against the local population accompanied by gross violations of human rights and the impunity of those who commit crimes against humanity,” separatist president Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev recently decreed the establishment of a “Caucasus front.” This step, according to Kavkazcenter, “is not only justified but is also the only right decision because it rules out the possibility of manipulation of the current situation by the Russian side to the detriment of the peoples of the Caucasus, and facilitates coordination of the resistance forces and centralized command” (see Chechnya Weekly, May 18).

According to Kavkazcenter, the separatist delegation told the European Parliament deputies that its leadership is devoted to a negotiated settlement to the war in Chechnya while stressing the “complete absence” of political and moral will for peace on the part of the Russian leadership. The delegation called on the European parliamentarians to condemn the assassination of Aslan Maskhadov and demand that the Kremlin hand over his body to his relatives; give a legal assessment of human rights violations by Russian “occupation gangs” in Chechnya; set up an independent commission to investigate mass killings in Chechnya along with the September 2004 Beslan school siege and the October 2002 Moscow theater siege; demand that the Kremlin allow independent mass media and “independent international experts” into Chechnya; and discuss the possibility of holding an international conference on the situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus under the aegis of the European Parliament.

The separatist delegation visited The Hague on May 25 at the invitation of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and members of the Dutch parliament, and was scheduled to travel on May 28 to Strasbourg for meetings with separatist officials responsible for work with European institutions and members of the separatist Chechen parliament currently visiting France.

Meanwhile, State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, who heads Russia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), told RIA Novosti following a meeting of the PACE working group for preparing the next roundtable on Chechnya that Russia’s PACE delegation and the PACE representatives differ in their attitude toward the possibility of “moderate separatists” participating in the roundtable. The PACE representatives, Kosachev said, see the “moderate separatists” as ready to renounce terrorism and recognize Russia’s territorial integrity and thus qualifying to participate in the roundtable. The Russian side, however, insists that another criterion for participation should be that law-enforcement bodies have no claims on any potential participant “for his past actions,” Kosachev said. That would appear to rule out separatist representatives like Akhmed Zakaev, who is wanted in Russia on various criminal charges.

Kosachev also said that the PACE working group on the roundtable had agreed that its next session should be held before Chechnya’s parliamentary elections, which have not yet been scheduled but are to take place no later than this fall. The working group agreed that the next roundtable would be held in Russia, Kosachev said. The first roundtable was held in Strasbourg on March 21 and its participants included European, Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen officials and parliamentarians along with representatives of human rights organizations. Chechen President Alu Alkhanov has proposed holding the next roundtable in Grozny and has guaranteed security to its participants.