On August 1, an estimated 150-200 Chechen refugees plan to begin a 2,000-kilometer-long peace march, expected to last seventy days, from the Chechen capital of Djohar (Grozny) to the Russian capital, Moscow. The peace march was announced on July 26 by the organizations “For Human Rights” and “the Helsinki Group.” The chief demand of the marchers will be that the Russian government immediately begin peace negotiations with President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya. Among the marchers will be refugees who participated in a recent extended hunger strike in the Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia. Women and children older than twelve years of age will be participating in the march, as will representatives of the elderly. The marchers will carry no signs so as “not to excite the [Russian] military and not to risk lives.” The march will pass through the following cities: Nal’chik, Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh, Lipetsk and Ryazan (Interfax, Kavkaz-Tsentr, NTV.ru, July 26).
In a statement issued by the organizers of the march, it is remarked: “The seven-year-long Russian-Chechen war has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people. Cities and villages have been destroyed. The population has been executed, plundered, frightened to death, and doomed to destruction. There is no place for Chechens on the territory of the Chechen Republic or beyond its borders. They are de facto and juridically deprived of defense by the [Russian] state. They are deprived of the right to life. They have only one right left: to die in a hunger strike or in a peace march at the walls of the Kremlin.” The decision of the Chechen refugees to take this peaceful action is being supported by the official Russian human rights representative, Oleg Mironov. He recently appealed to MVD Minister Boris Gryzlov and to regional leaders asking them to take the march under close supervision so that order will be preserved and so that citizens advocating an end to the war may be able freely to express their views (Kommersant, July 27).