On February 21, the online daily Lenta.ru reported that the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, headed by Akhmad Kadyrov, and Russian military and police units stationed in Chechnya were intending to take harsh steps to prevent any commemoration by the Chechen populace of the February 23, 1944 deportation of all ethnic Chechens to Central Asia, an action which ultimately resulted in the genocide of approximately one-quarter of the total Chechen population. Kadyrov announced that all meetings, processions and other measures aimed at commemorating the tragedy of the deportation were to be strictly forbidden.
On the following day, February 22, Lenta.ru reported that a demonstration demanding an end to the war had begun in Moscow. “About 1,000 persons, including the human rights defender Sergei Kovalev and the deputy of the State Duma Sergei Yushenkov,” were said to be participating in this action. The protestors demanded that President Vladimir Putin begin, without prior conditions, negotiations with the Chechen Republic President Aslan Maskhadov, “whose legitimacy has been recognized by the international community and the government of Russia.” It was also proposed that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe serve as intermediaries in the negotiations and that that organization’s assistance group to Chechnya be given a broadened mandate. Deputies of the State Duma were called upon to conduct an open session devoted to the question of the disappearance of civilians arrested by federal troops in Chechnya from 1994 on. It was announced that a demonstration would be held every Thursday in Moscow “until the beginning of official peace negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov.”
Among the organizers of the February 22 demonstration were the All-Russian Extraordinary Congress for the Defense of Human Rights, the Committee for Antiwar Activities, the association “Memorial,” the Federation of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, the A.D. Sakharov Museum Center and other human rights organizations. In the United States, the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC) announced that events commemorating Chechen Deportation Day and drawing attention to the present “humanitarian catastrophe in Chechnya” would be held on February 23 in the United States, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania and Turkey.