A top Russian official seems to have gone out of his way to quash speculation that Moscow plans to negotiate with the Chechen separatists or has already started doing so. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov sounded the hard line yesterday, telling journalists that all Chechen “bandits” guilty of killing Russian soldiers would be destroyed. “We forget nothing, and for people of that type we will find a final resting place one by two meters in size,” Ivanov said, obviously referring to a grave. The defense minister said that “irreconcilable bandits are being destroyed systematically, one by one,” adding: “By no means are we showing and telling everything to the mass media. To talk about it every day is perhaps boring.” Ivanov attributed the “successes” in the Chechen military operation to the fact that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was put in charge of it at the beginning of this year (Polit.ru, August 1). Ivanov, like the Russian president, is a special services veteran, and his hardline comments come on the heels of similar statements by Putin. Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the Russian armed forces’ General Staff, recently said Putin had told him to “tell everyone” that no negotiations were going on with the Chechen rebels. In addition, the Russian president said during a press conference last month that he had no intention of changing his approach to the Chechen conflict (see the Monitor, July 19, 27).
In the meantime, Vladimir Kalamanov, Russia’s human rights ombudsman for Chechnya, said yesterday (August 1) that some 300 civilians remain missing in Chechnya. At the same time, Kalamanov criticized the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, for “accepting” complaints of rights abuses from Chechen civilians. Allegations of such abuses, including disappearances and extrajudicial killings, increased last month following so-called “mopping up” operations in several Chechen towns near the republic’s border with Ingushetia. Hundreds of residents were detained during those operations, and some of them were beaten and tortured. Dozens of civilians who disappeared during those operations are now feared dead (AFP, August 1; see the Monitor, July 5, 9, 12, 19, 23, 30). Chechen rebel sources, meanwhile, claimed that thirteen young men were detained during mopping up operations carried out in the villages of Chiri Yurt and Starye Atagi over July 26-28, and that seven civilians were killed when tanks bombarded the village of Aleroi. Residents of the village of Noibi, in the Gudermes district, have been protesting abuses by Russian troops, and seven of the protesters were reportedly arrested on July 27. Meanwhile, twenty-five human rights activists in Ingushetia yesterday set out from Sleptsovskaya, on the republic’s border with Chechnya, on a 2000-kilometer march to Moscow, with the aim of drawing the federal authorities’ attention to the plight of Chechen refugees in Ingushetia (Polit.ru, Glasnost Foundation, August 1).
BUS HIJACKING JUST THE LATEST IN A LONG SERIES.