On May 5, the official website of the Moscow-backed Chechen government in Grozny published an announcement that a delegation of Chechen "parliamentarians" was to visit Helsinki in order to take part in "a seminar on the study of the European experience of local government, which will be held in Helsinki, 9-17 May." The announcement said that delegates would include administrative heads from the Kurchaloi, Nadterechny, Sunzha and Shatoi districts, as well as representatives of the mayor's office in Grozny, and the group would be led by Idris Usmanov, speaker of the Chechen National Assembly. Russia's officially-appointed Human Rights Commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, would also take part.
According to the Regnum agency (May 8), which backs the Chechen announcement, the Finnish seminar is being held under the auspices of the Council of Europe.
FiFi reports that the news of the seminar has aroused anxiety among Chechen refugees and exiles living in Finland. The recent spate of killings of ethnic Chechens in countries outside the Russian Federation is a grim reminder that the Kremlin-backed regime led by Ramzan Kadyrov is intent on eliminating opposition to his rule wherever it may exist, and not just in Chechnya. So far, attempts to obtain clarification about the seminar from the Council of Europe and the Finnish authorities have apparently met with little success.
It will not have escaped the notice of Kadyrov and the Moscow leadership that on May 25-26 the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, FinRosForum, will hold its third annual seminar in Helsinki.
Howewer, given the nature of the Chechen regime and its Moscow backers, it is quite possible that the whole story of the "other" seminar - the one announced for today - is a fabrication, designed to embarrass the Finnish government and alarm the local Chechen community.
The main themes of the two-day seminar will be the rights of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and the question of political prisoners in today's Russia. The venue of the seminar will be the Annex to the Parliament House in the city centre of Helsinki. The languages to be used will be Russian and English with simultaneous interpretation.