The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Jan. 9 that Russia must pay 1.9 million euros, or $2.6 million, to the families of 36 Chechen men who disappeared between 2000 and 2006. The court found that Russia was in violation of Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (PDF). These violations concern the right to life, prohibition of inhuman treatment, right to liberty and security and right to an effective remedy. The court found that the families presented credible evidence towards their claim that their loved ones have been seized by the Russian military and Russia had failed to prove that the military was not responsible for the disappearances. It is unclear whether Russia will appeal the judgment to a higher human rights court.
At least 34 people were killed in apparent suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd—the first at the central commuter station Dec. 29, the next the following day on a trolley-bus in a market district. Moscow is stepping up security throughout the country, fearing an effort to disrupt the 2014 winter Olympic Games slated for the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi in February. Police have detained dozens in a sweep of terror suspects in Volgograd, with hundreds more searched or questioned. Reports did not make clear if the detained are Chechens, but did note a threat in a video statement released by Chechen resistance leader Doku Umarov earlier in the year to use "maximum force" to stop the Sochi Olympics. On the day of the first Volgograd blast, Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee boasted that FSB troops had killed a close aide to Umarov in a raid on a safe house in Dagestan. (CNN, Dec. 31; BBC News, The Guardian, Dec. 30; RT, Dec. 29)
Commentary on the Boston attacks is making for some strange permutations. Voices on the left are seeking to play down jihadist involvement in the Chechen struggle—or to portray it as the result of US intrigues, with the obvious analogy to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda itself. Michael Moore's website sports a piece by FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley entitled "Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons," calling out figures such as Richard Perle for backing an "American Committee for Peace in Chechnya" as a lobby for the armed struggle against Russia—the name later "sanitized" to the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.
At least seven police officers were killed Aug. 19 in a suicide bomb blast in the Russian Caucasus republic of Ingushetia. The blast occurred in Sagopshi village of Malgobek district in northwest Ingushetia, at the funeral of a police officer who was killed in a shootout with militants the day before. According to Ingush Security Council, all the dead except the bomber were police officers. The attack came hours after gunmen in Dagestan, another Russian republic of the North Caucasus, opened fire in a mosque, injuring several people who had gathered to celebrate Eid, the holy day marking the end of Ramadan. A bomb discovered at the site was deactivated. (Voice of Russia, RIA-Novosti, BBC News, Aug. 19) (See map.)
Some 60,000 Azeris gathered in Baku Feb. 26 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly massacre in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. President Ilham Aliyev participated in the mass gathering at Azadlig Square. Young people held portraits of the victims, under banners reading, "The world must recognize the Khojaly genocide" and "No to Armenian fascism!" (News.az, Feb. 26)
Five days of protests in the Georgian capital Tbilisi culminated in harsh repression May 26 as riot police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse several hundred demonstrators demanding resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili. At least two are reported dead following a confrontation outside the parliament building. A government statement accused protesters of "planning to violently resist the police" and intending to illegally occupy the main street outside parliament to prevent the annual Independence Day parade. Protest leader Nino Burjanadze, who has promised a "revolution," pledged further demonstrations: "We will not stop. We will do everything to get rid of this government which hates its people." (AFP, Reuters, May 26)
In their fist official statement, Russian investigators have linked last week's suicide bombing at Moscow's airport to a militant Islamist group from the Russian republic of Dagestan, naming leader Ibrahim-Khalil Daudov as the mastermind of the attack. Violence meanwhile continues unabated in the North Causasus, barely winning international headlines. Four were killed and six wounded when a blast ripped through a cafe in Dagestan Jan. 27. It was the second car bombing in the city of Khasavyurt in the past two weeks. On Jan. 14, a similar attack killed four and wounded five in the city. (SAPA, Jan. 31; Xinhua, Jan. 27)
Among the documents released by WikiLeaks—none of which, their supporters insist, is indiscriminate—is an August 2006 classified US diplomatic cable on the lavish wedding party thrown by Gadzhi Makhachev, political boss of the Avar ethnic group in Russia's Caucasus republic of Dagestan, for his 19-year-old son. Makhachev is a Duma member, chief of the Dagestan Oil Company, and warlord who gained fame for leading the defense of Dagestan against the incursions of Chechen guerilla fighter Shamil Basayev ten years ago. The leaked cable contains much juicy gossip on Caucasus politics, and unflattering depictions of local political figures. Despite WikiLeaks' stated policy of only releasing documents that reveal newsworthy official malfeasance, we see nothing in this lengthy cable that meets that standard. However, the text is certain to be deeply embarrassing for the US diplomatic corps in Russia and the Caucasus. Ultimately, it may say more about hidden agendas behind WikiLeaks than about US designs...