Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 25


Lending further credence to claims by separatist president Maskhadov that the rebel guerrillas have stepped up their activity in recent weeks, an official of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration anonymously told the Associate Press on June 20 that twelve Russian soldiers and police officers had died in combat or in landmine explosions during the previous 24-hour period. During that period, said the official, there had been some 20 rebel assaults on federal positions.

In one of these attacks, in the town of Achkhoi-Martan southwest of Grozny, the guerrillas raided the local police station and set everyone jailed there. In that firefight, two federal soldiers were killed and seven wounded.

During that same period, according to the AP source, Russian forces conducted security sweeps leading to the detentions of at least 220 Chechens.


The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, one of Russia’s most tenacious human-rights organizations, continues to challenge the authorities about the basic facts of the Chechen wars—such as the number of casualties. According to a recent statement of that Committee, published on the website on June 19, the officially reported number of deaths is about half the true figure.

The Committee said it based its on several considerations. First, the local branches of the Committee have collected figures on casualties from the Russian Federation’s local military districts. The cumulative totals from those reports exceed the officially reported national totals.

Second, medical laboratories which specialize in trying to identify the bodies of unidentified soldiers are receiving more such bodies than they would if the official casualty figures were accurate.

Third, the official system is deliberately designed to omit key parts of the picture. It counts only those soldiers who died directly on the battlefield, not those who died later from wounds they received in combat. It counts only those dead who are precisely identified by name, not those whose identities are unknown. It ignores all soldiers captured or missing in action, automatically classifying them as deserters.


How important is oil as part of Chechnya’s criminal economy? An article by the Chechen journalist Mainat Abdulaeva, published last week by the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, claims that there are places in almost every village where it is possible to find oil by digging down just 10 or 15 meters. Primitive oil wells which the Chechens call “samovars” are now said to number from 600 to 1,000—and to be operating mostly for the benefit of corrupt officers in the Russian military. According to Abdulaeva, columns of oil trucks, escorted by Russian armored vehicles, freely pass through army checkpoints; from midnight to dawn one can hear them rumbling along the main highway leading out of Grozny. Chechen police told the journalist that about $800,000 worth of contraband oil is exported from the republic per day.