Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 56

Officials in Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin administration, the Southern federal district and the Federal Security Service (FSB) have accused both foreign and Russian media of presenting a distorted picture of the situation in Chechnya. During a March 19 meeting in Gudermes, Chechnya, the officials, who included Chechen administration chief Akhmad Kadyrov and FSB chief spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich, said inhabitants of Chechnya need to learn “the real truth about the military-political situation in the republic,” which was being distorted by foreign correspondents, who “tend to see disaster and a total abuse of human rights everywhere,” the website reported. Zdanovich charged that Chechnya’s residents were being disinformed about events in the republic by foreign radio broadcasts, which, he said, are “deliberately biased,” while Russia’s main television channels, including the state’s own RTR Television and Russian Public Television (ORT), sought out “sensation” while passing over “the positive developments taking place in the republic of late.” Kadyrov said that he would ask the federal government for financial assistance in launching a newspaper, Vesti Respubliky–to be published in both Russian and Chechen–in creating a republican news agency and in technically upgrading the republic’s television and radio company. The participants in the meeting also called for merging the press centers of Southern federal district’s administration and the Russian military forces in Chechnya (, March 20).

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin’s pointman and chief spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, has been named head of a new Kremlin information department. The new information department, according to a Kremlin spokesman, will be responsible for “improving the administration’s information policies” (Moscow Times, March 20). A newspaper today quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying that the initiative for the new information department had come from Security Council–the Kremlin’s powerful whose activities are coordinated by its secretary, Sergei Ivanov–and from the presidential envoys in the seven federal districts. Like the presidential envoys, Yastrzhembsky will now participate in Security Council meetings (Segodnya, March 21).

The creation of the new Kremlin information department would appear to represent a victory for the “Chekists,” the Kremlin clan which includes security service veterans like Ivanov and FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, over the “Family,” the group of Yeltsin-era power brokers which includes Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. On the other hand, another reputed Family member, Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, reportedly backed Yastrzhembsky for the new post. Lesin apparently feared that Yastrzhembsky would otherwise be tapped to replace him and also wanted to let someone else deal with the controversies surrounding the state’s relations with the media (see the Monitor, March 1). In any case, despite the Family’s apparent loss in this battle, many leading Russian political analysts believe that the Yeltsin-era officials continue to predominate in the Russian government and Kremlin administration (Segodnya, March 20).