Russia: October 20, 2003


Amid extreme security, Akhmad Kadyrov was sworn in as Chechnya's president on October 19th. Kadyrov was once Muslim Chechens' spiritual leader and was expected to take his oath of office on the Koran. However, he did not and gave a secular acceptance speech. The ceremony was held in the Republic's second largest city, Gudermes, rather than the capital Grozny and kept secret until the last minute for security reasons. Attending dignitaries were even told to switch off mobile phones. 

On the 18th, five Russian soldiers and three policemen were killed in the latest round of fighting in Chechnya. Rebels attacked had federal positions in the region 16 times over the preceding 24 hours, killing five Russian soldiers and wounding 13. On the 17th, law enforcement authorities detained 60 people (37 of the suspects were detained in neighboring Ingushetia) accused of belonging to groups planning to carry out terror attacks to disrupt the inauguration. They also confiscated a truckload of weapons and ammunition from the detainees. 

Moscow's peace process has been denounced as a sham by rebels and rights groups. Human rights groups claimed that the turnout figures given for the October 5th election appeared to be inflated. Supposedly, 85 percent of the province's 560,000 voters cast ballots and Kadyrov got over 80 percent of those votes. Former Chechen president and rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov declared that the elections will not pacify the region but simply inspire more Chechens to fight Russian rule.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry's commission revealed serious shortcomings in the selection of staff for the military commandants' offices in Chechnya. In the Naurskiy District office alone, 49 officers were sacked since 2002, while the office's authorized strength is 45. All officers were discharged for violating the terms of their contract. Not having reliable people in these key positions might be one of the reasons that Russia's problems in Chechnya just keep dragging along. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Russian forces have suffered more casualties in the past year in Chechnya than at any time since war resumed in 1999. - Adam Geibel


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