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Russia: Chechen Prime Minister Says Danish Groups Unwelcome

Radio Free Europe

February 7, 2006

By Valentinas Mite

Chechnya's pro-Moscow leader says Denmark has offended the entire Muslim community and that all Danish groups should pack up and leave the republic.

Kadyrov told Reuters new agency in Grozny that all world leaders should express their opinion about the offensive cartoons.

"They are playing with the feelings of 1 1/2 billion people," Kadyrov said. "This is the most sensitive spot for Muslims in the world. I think the whole world and its leaders should express their opinion about this so it will not happen again. It is frightening even to speak about it. They should answer and apologize to the whole world."

Activities Suspended

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Khalid Vaikhanov today followed up by announcing that Chechnya's pro-Moscow government has decided to suspend the activities of the Danish Refugee Council. The organization, which employs six international and 400 locals in the North Caucasus, is one of the largest foreign aid organizations in the region.

Vaikhanov said the decision is final and will not be reconsidered. However, Russia's federal government has not officially commented on the decision, and some Russian legislators have said that the Chechen government is not qualified to decide on such issues.

Arne Vaagen, the head of the Danish Refugee Council's international department, told RFE/RL by telephone from Denmark that the organization has not been formally informed about the decision.

"We don't know," Vaagen said. "We have not received any official message regarding the statement of Mr. Kadyrov yet."

No Contest

Vaagen stressed that the council is working in the region in order to help people, and he noted the importance of cooperation with the authorities in fulfilling this mission. With this in mind, he said that if ordered to leave the Danish Refugee Council would do so and not seek to contest the decision.

Ruslan Badalov is an ethnic Chechen who heads the Chechen National Rescue Committee, a human rights group based in neighboring Ingushetia. He said the Danish Refugee Council is indispensable to Chechnya.

"It is doing a lot [to help Chechen refugees] and also did a lot during the duration of this military conflict," Badalov said. "It is one of the most important large and serious organizations, which has helped and is helping in all spheres."

Badalov said he too is outraged that the Prophet Muhammad was mocked but noted that "neither the Danish government nor the Danish Refugee Council are responsible for the cartoons." Badalov also pointed out that nobody has given Kadyrov the right to speak and act on behalf of the Chechen Muslims.

Aleksei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Center think tank in Moscow, said he was not surprised by Kadyrov's declaration. Malashenko said the pro-Moscow politician takes advantage of every opportunity to exhibit his Muslim loyalty. Malashenko said Kadyrov has recently expressed his support for polygamy, declared jihad against separatists, and has strongly criticized gambling.

"In some situations Kadyrov has this so-called right of ex-territoriality (freedom of actions) in Chechnya," Malashenko said. "Also the fact that he is kicking them out (the Danish Refugee Council) perfectly coincides with the negative attitude Moscow has toward any of those noncommercial organizations that exist. I think that, in this case, the two opinions have coincided absolutely."

Still Not Official

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov stressed today that the Russian government has not yet made an official decision on the matter.

"The statement by the acting chairman of the government of the Chechen Republic is probably his personal statement, it is not a government decision yet," Malashenko said. " I think such statements should be at least passed through an official governing body first. I view it only as a personal statement."

Gryzlov described Kadyrov's statement as "purely emotional" and said the decision is not in accordance with Russian law.

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