The violence in Chechnya continues unabated. A two-story building which housed a police station was blown up today in the city of Gudermes, leaving three of the eight people in the building at the time of the blast seriously wounded, four still unaccounted for and the building itself almost completely destroyed (Radio Liberty, April 25). At the same time, the Russian military claims that the rebels are more and more frequently targeting civilians. An automobile containing the bodies of three local residents who had been shot to death was discovered in the Leninsk district of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital. The body of a resident who was being trained as a policeman was found in the same area. Two civilians were wounded when a car was fired on near the town of Alkhan-Kala. In Argun, a large explosion wounded the driver and passenger of a car which happened to be driving by at the time of detonation, while a serviceman was wounded when a column of federal troops was fired on near the village of Novaya Zhizn in the Kurchaloevsky region. In Gudermes, a military official and a local resident were wounded when an armored personnel carrier was blown up, and four policemen were wounded when another bomb went off. A similar bombing in the town of Novye Atagi injured two servicemen. Two border guards at a border post on the Chechen side of the Russian-Georgian border were wounded by gunfire.
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, meanwhile, accused Russian forces of murder following the discovery of the bodies of four adolescent boys and asked international human rights organizations to investigate the crime. His allegation appeared to get unexpected backing from Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, who asked the Russian military command in Chechnya to take decisive steps to find and punish the murderers. However, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, formerly President Vladimir Putin’s point man on Chechnya who now heads a new Kremlin information department, categorically denied that Russian troops were involved. He claimed that the murders were the result of “cynical and cruel” actions by the rebels (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 20, 24). Yaztrzhembsky’s office claimed today that six Chechen rebel fighters–including two field commanders, Ibrahim Dadaev and Artur Akhmadov–were captured in the village of Assinovskaya in the Achkoi-Martan region (Radio Liberty, April 25).
This week the Council of Europe published the first official list of crimes committed by Russian forces against civilians during the seventeen-month Chechen conflict. The thirty-page document lists 329 incidents which were investigated by both military and civilian prosecutors. Only seven of those cases were brought before military tribunals. Charges were brought in five of those cases, including for murder (Radio Liberty, April 24). Meanwhile, a group of eight Chechen journalists accused Russian media, particularly the state’s RTR and ORT television channels, of covering the Chechen conflict in a one-sided manner. The journalists charged that the biased reports have helped foster among Russian servicemen “a feeling of rage and revenge toward all Chechens” (Moscow Times, April 24).
LANDMARK PRIVATIZATION PROJECT FAILS IN ARMENIA…