Only two days after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov predicted that a formal end to the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya would soon be announced, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on March 27 that improved security in the republic meant it is time to review tight restrictions in force there since Russian military and security forces were sent there in 1999. Medvedev ordered the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK), headed by Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov, to consider the future of the operation and take “the necessary decisions,” Agence France-Presse reported. According to the news agency, the Russian president said the situation in Chechnya had normalized “to a large degree” and that life in the republic “is getting back to normal, modern buildings are being constructed.”
Medvedev stressed that the fight against militants “should not stop or slow down,” stating that while it is necessary to “create new possibilities for citizens to attract investment and create employment,” at the same time “we need to consistently fight terrorism.” Bortnikov, for his part, told Medvedev: “I am convinced that the removal of the anti-terror regime in Chechnya will allow the further normalization of the situation and attract investment.”
Kadyrov praised Medvedev’s remarks, Reuters reported. “It should rather be viewed as an acknowledgement of the fact that the problem of fighting illegal armed formations has been finally solved in the Chechen Republic,” Kadyrov said in a statement read by his press secretary by telephone. He added that lifting the restrictions would encourage the return of Chechen emigrants who had fled during the two wars. “Our compatriots see positive changes,” he said. “People may return home.”
Ramzan Kadyrov declared on March 25 that the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya would be completed by the end of this month and that already by the end of next week all federal limitations on the republic will be lifted. On March 26, Interfax quoted a Russian military source as saying that of the 50,000 troops currently stationed in Chechnya, 20,000 might withdraw if the authorities end the effective state of war in the republic (North Caucasus Weekly, March 27).
Yet, Tatyana Stanovaya, an analyst writing for the Politcom.ru website on April 1, noted that the NAK, in the end, did not take a decision at its meeting to declare a formal end to the Chechnya operation. “The National Anti-Terrorist Committee of Russia did not take a decision to lift the regime of the counter-terrorist operation (KTO) in Chechnya, despite the request by the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov,” she wrote. “The question, apparently, has been set aside. Nevertheless, Kadyrov managed to achieve the main thing—the regime in the republic will probably be eased, which will allow it to have its own customs and an international airport. Apparently, the results of the NAK meeting are evidence of an absence of a concordance of opinion within the government concerning lifting the KTO regime” (see Mairbek Vatchagaev’s article in this issue).