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Grozny Mayor Recants Over Mass-Grave Remarks

Published: April 13, 2001 (Issue # 661)


MOSCOW - Grozny Mayor Bislan Gan tamirov backtracked Wednesday on remarks he made a day earlier about a mass grave found by his staff on the grounds of a police station in the Che chen capital.

After saying Tuesday that 17 bodies with gunshot wounds had been found in the basement of a bombed-out dormitory next to the Oktyabrskoye police station, Gantamirov did an about-face and joined the chorus of federal officials denying the findings.

"If [presidential envoy to the North Cau casus District General Viktor] Ka zant sev thinks there is no one there, it means there is no one there," Ganta mi rov said by telephone on Wednesday.

Kommersant reported Tuesday that Gan tamirov had announced the discovery and accused Interior Ministry troops stationed at the police station of killing Chechen detainees. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Gantamirov confirmed the report.

The story of the burial site has been rife with contradictions.

Federal officials, including Chechnya's prosecutor Viktor Dakhnov, announced Tuesday that the site had been searched and no bodies found.

However, on Wednesday acting Grozny prosecutor Yury Ponomaryov said the investigation was continuing.

"It is impossible to say for certain whether there are bodies there or not," Ponomaryov told NTV television.

Explaining his change of heart Wednesday, Gantamirov said he'd learned of the discovery from the same source as Kazantsev, who first confirmed the find but then said an investigation had come up empty.

"I was relying on the same source of information as Kazantsev," Gantamirov told Interfax. "If he then maintained there is no grave, I have to believe him."

Gantamirov did not specify his source of information.

But Chechnya's prosecutor Dak h nov told Interfax on Wednesday that the reports were based on claims by local residents.

"They are looking for relatives missing since January and for some reason are convinced their bodies can be found near the Oktyabrskoye police station," Dakh nov told Interfax.

Russian television Wednesday showed investigators inspecting the ruins of the shell-shattered dormitory as Chechen women roamed around nearby. Gantamirov said his men were at the site as well, but declined to elaborate.

Gantamirov, whose current stint as Grozny's mayor began in October, has a bumpy relationship with the Kremlin. He was first appointed mayor after federal troops seized Grozny in 1994 and held the post until May 1996, when he was jailed after a conviction for embezzling millions of dollars allocated for restoring the devastated city. In October 1999, shortly after the second campaign began, Gantamirov was pardoned and appointed to head the pro-Kremlin Che chen police. Since then, he has often been at odds with his boss, Che chen administration head Akhmad Kadyrov.

Human rights groups have registered complaints about disappearances of people detained by troops from the Oktyabrskoye police station.

But Vladimir Salnikov, an officer from the elite OMON unit in charge of the station until early this month, told Kommersant his comrades had nothing to do with the disappearance of local residents, adding that mass graves in Chechnya are commonplace.

"Half the buildings in [Grozny's] Oktyabrsky district are destroyed. Most ruins haven't been cleared since the previous war, so God knows how many more bodies - both Chechen and ours - are underneath," Salnikov was quoted as saying.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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