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Moscow Prepares for Final Expulsion of Chechens

MOSCOW, October 7, (RFE/RL) — Police in the Russian capital are now operating under explicit, acknowledged but still unpublished instructions from above not to re-register any ethnic Chechens living in Moscow, a senior human rights monitor told at press briefing in Washington on 6 October.

Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch and former head of that organization’s Moscow office, said that this step effectively criminalizes Chechens and leaves them open to persecution and ultimately expulsion from the Russian capital.

Many observers have decried recent Russian moves against Chechens and other ethnic groups from the North Caucasus, Denber said, but most have suggested that these actions arose in reaction to a recent series of bombings many Russians blame the Chechens for.

In fact, Denber noted, the current campaign is far less spontaneous and has far deeper roots: First of all, she said, the Russian and Soviet arrangements for registering all residents in major cities, the so-called “propiska” system, provided the basis for the current action. It gave the authorities the ability to control the population.

While these arrangements are both illegal and unconstitutional in Russia now, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has retained them.

Second, the current campaign really began with Luzhkov’s response to the October 1993 conflict between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament.

Following this clash, Luzhkov issued a decree calling for the expulsion of “persons of Caucasian nationality” from the Russian capital, the sixth anniversary of which was marked this week.

Under its terms, Luzhkov has carried out a series of expulsion efforts against the Chechens and other groups.

And third, Denber noted, there are broader bureaucratic and political calculations. By banning the re-registration of Chechens, Luzhkov has given the police a new and lucrative source of illegal income, allowing them to extract bribes from those subject to expulsion. And he has played to popular anger against the Chechens and thus gained additional political support.

Denber pointed out that it is unlikely Luzhkov was acting alone. Not only has his campaign been copied by leaders elsewhere in the Russian Federation, but it has received implicit support from the central government.

 Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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