In April 1995, an OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya (Russian Federation) was established. The group helped to broker ceasefires and mediated in negotiations between the sides. Due to the deteriorating security situation, the international staff of the Group were withdrawn to Moscow in December 1998, where they continued to operate from temporary facilities. The OSCE office in Grozny remained open until armed fighting broke out again in 1999.
The OSCE was the only international organization present in Chechnya at this time. The Assistance Group:
- Arranged exchanges of prisoners
- Facilitated the return of humanitarian agencies
- Promoted a peaceful resolution of the crisis
- Promoted stabilization of the Republic
- Promoted de-mining
- Provided assistance for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)
- Monitored human rights
The Group regularly reported on the situation of IDPs, and political, military, economic, environmental, and human rights issues.
Return to Chechnya
In June 2001, the OSCE Assistance Group returned to Chechnya (not to Groznybut to the town of Znamenskoe) to implement its 1995 mandate. During the period of its absence from Chechnya, the Assistance Group had maintained relations with the federal authorities in Moscow and established new contacts with local and federal authorities in Chechnya and adjacent regions. This helped the group to keep itself informed of the latest developments.
The Assistance Group attended parliamentary hearings on the socio-political situation and human rights in Chechnya and focused on the return of IDPs. It took part in a roundtable on post-conflict reconstruction with Russian and Chechen officials, as well as individuals from multilateral organizations and NGOs. The Assistance Group often met Chechen officials to discuss the situation of the IDPs and made assessment visits to IDP camps. The group closely co-operated with human rights organizations, such as Memorial and Human Rights Watch, and reported documented instances of human rights violations to the OSCE participating states.
Another major task of the group was to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the victims of the crisis. Before and after its return to Chechnya, the Assistance Group sought to identify programs geared towards the post-conflict social, psychological, and professional rehabilitation of victims. Due to the limitation of funds, programs were often targeted at children and young people, representing the most vulnerable and affected groups.
Finally, the OSCE and Russian government were unable to reach agreement on extending the mandate of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya, following Russian proposals to significantly change the mandate of the mission. Russia insisted that the mission give up its human rights and political dimensions. The OSCE refused. In late 2002 the Russian government requested the closure of the OSCE Assistance Group office in Chechnya. The Group ceased its activities in January 2003, and was closed by March.
Members of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya visit school no. 48 in the damaged city of Grozny, 26 October 2001. (OSCE)