A report from Chechnya published in Moskovsky komsomolets on March 21 suggested that federal forces have not yet captured Shamil Basaev because they do not want to capture him. “Why is Basaev still alive and free to this very day?,” wrote the article’s author, Svetlana Meteleva. “Because the history of the second Chechen war comes down to an elementary formula. There is the order to keep him under surveillance. But there is no order to liquidate. The special services know where Basaev is. But, for now, they are not going to kill him.”
Meteleva cited various anonymous military and security officers to this effect. “We have Basaev under total surveillance,” she quoted a GRU military intelligence officer in Vedeno as having said this past January. “We know everything about him. But we have clear orders: Not to take him, not to liquidate him, just to watch him.” She quoted an “associate” of the Vedeno branch of the Interior Ministry: “Even if there were a person who would inform on Shamil, that would be the last thing he would ever do. Basaev would immediately get a call. Moreover – you will laugh – the one calling would most likely be the one who received the information.” A Moscow policeman who served three tours of duty in Chechnya told her: “In 2002, we were in one of the Chechen villages. In broad daylight, a Niva without a top is coming down the road, with several people in it. With green flags. I myself saw Basaev – in the sights of my SVD [sniper’s rifle]. I could have shot him right then and there. But we had received the order: Let him pass. And there were many such cases – and not only with Basaev.” Indeed, sources told Meteleva that rebel field commanders Ruslan Gelaev and Arbi Baraev, who were eventually killed, were similarly protected for a time – as, possibly, was Aslan Maskhadov, or so Meteleva’s article implies.
Meteleva also quoted “Aslan,” a native of Vedeno who now lives in Moscow as saying that “Basaev’s people are constantly buying arms, information and equipment from federal troops.” She also claimed that when Basaev led rebel forces in an incursion into Dagestan in 1999, a dentist from the Dagestani village of Novolak approached a Russian special operations general to tell him that Basaev had basically commandeered his house, asking the general to bomb the house “just so this scoundrel does not get away.” That, however, did not happen.