A trial of 17 militants charged with plotting an armed rebellion in Kabardino-Balkariya and Karachayevo-Cherkessiya (North Caucasian republics within Russia) was launched in Pyatigorsk on Monday. This information has been disclosed by the permanent session of Stavropol regional court in Mineralniye Vody. The court will consider the case of active members of a Wahhabi movement whose primary objective was to establish an Islamic caliphate in the North Caucasus. Investigators from the North Caucasian Department of the Russian Prosecutor General's office and the North Caucasian Department of the Russian Federal Security Service /FSB/ have revealed that the group launched its activities in the region in 1996. Shamil Basayev, Khattab, Achemez Gochiyayev, Khyzyr Salpagarov and other rebel warlords were among the leaders of the organisation. According to the North Caucasian Department of the Russian Prosecutor General's office, Wahhabi groups were manned with young people who had completed military and ideological training courses in such Chechen camps as the Kavkaz, Taliban, Mutafadzhirag, the Caucasian Islamic Institute and the Islamic Army of the Caucasus. The ideological programme was primarily targeted at preparing students for grave crimes, including terror acts and subversive operations against peaceful civilians. Camps' graduates were subsequently sent back home for religious propaganda and the preparation of terror acts in the North Caucasus. According to the North Caucasian Department of the Russian Prosecutor General's office, extremists were funded both from abroad and by raising money in bandit attacks in the North Caucasus. The group was armed with automatic weapons, rocket launchers, explosives and modern communication systems. The defendants are charged with staging a number of terror acts in the North Caucasus and fighting against federal forces in Chechnya.
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election
On December 14, President Putin holds his annual Q&A session with Russian and foreign journalists. This conference is considered to be the beginning of his presidential campaign