Russia and Europe: Two Viewpoints about Chechnya

The hostage crisis changed Europe’s attitude to Chechnya, but not for long

While Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov talked to the PACE delegation about the retrieval of peaceful life in the Chechen republic, a group of Chechen citizens filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights.

Gennady Seleznyov, the Speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, had a meeting with a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The leader of the delegation is a member of the British parliament, co-chairman of the PACE-Duma workgroup for Chechnya, Lord Frank Judd. This man is known in Russia very well. His distinct anti-Russian position regarding the Chechen issue is like a source of constant headache for Russian politicians.

The hostage crisis in Moscow made Europe have another look at the problem. Unfortunately, it did not last long. Akhmed Zakayev, the envoy of the fugitive Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, made it everything clear. Europe spit Russia in the face, when it issued a so-called passport of freedom to Zakayev. This “passport” acknowledged Zakayev’s contribution to the struggle for Chechnya's rights and independence. In addition to that, the European parliament approved a resolution on December 19th, welcoming the decision of the Danish government not to deliver “leading Chechen politician Akhmed Zakayev.”

The latter is currently in Great Britain, waiting for his fate to be determined. However, as specialists say, this legal case has no perspectives. Most likely, Zakayev will ask the English government to provide a political shelter to him.

Russia’s actions in return were remarkable for being emotional. Gennady Seleznyov, Speaker of the Duma, suggested the visit of the European parliament delegation to Russia should be delayed until the end of January. The majority of sane Russian politicians condemned the hasty statement from the speaker, having called it silly, to put it mildly. Anyway, it was too late and the European delegation delayed its visit to Russia for an indefinite period of time. The Kremlin has been promoting the idea of peace settlement of the Chechen conflict (Chechen constitution referendum, presidential election and so on). Such  harsh statement from the speaker of the Russian parliament was like a fly in the ointment. Anyway, the situation must be corrected absolutely urgently. That is why, the visit of the PACE delegation to Russia is just the right thing to happen at the moment. When Gennady Seleznyov welcomed European guests, he pointed out that Russia became a home for PACE representatives: “I do not ask, how many times you have been to Russia. You have witnessed all good and bad things that Russia has had. You can see, that there has been considerable progress achieved concerning the question of the peace settlement of the situation in Chechnya. Yet, we can not believe that all problems have been solved, that there has been law and order established in Chechnya, that all human rights have been protected there. The political constituent of the Chechen issue comes first,” stated Gennady Seleznyov.

The speaker of the Russian State Duma said that Stanislav Ilyasov, the Federal Minister for Chechnya is expected to make a speech on February 3 in the State Duma. “We would like to listen to the point of view of the executive power in order to find out, what they are going to do for settling the situation in the Chechen republic,” said Seleznyov. The speaker also touched upon the referendum for the Chechen constitution: “Of course, there will be a lot of enemies and ill-wishers for the preparation of the referendum. We can see, how Chechen people get intimidated, terrorists have not laid their weapons down yet. However, certain measures are taken in order to provide a normal preparation to the referendum in Chechnya.”

It is not known, to which extent the Russian speaker satisfied Lord Judd’s curiosity. There is one thing clear, though: the head of the PACE delegation did not arrive in Moscow empty-handed. One of his trump cards includes numerous lawsuits that were filed by Chechen nationals at the European Court of Human Rights.

Reference: About 150 complaints have been filed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Chechen people complain of the actions of the Russian federal troops. The court has six cases pending at the moment. This was officially said at a press conference in Memorial organization, which represents Chechens’ interests in the process. The lawsuits are presumably based on the fact that civilians get killed by federal forces during cleansing procedures. Human rights activists think that the guilt of the federal troops is obvious. They rejected the statement from Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, the president's special envoy for human rights in Chechnya, who said that the court timed the consideration of Chechens’ lawsuits to a regular session of PACE. Human rights activists wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin, asking him not to allow any violence against the Chechens, whose claims are considered at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

NTV archive photo

Dmitry Litvinovich

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka