— THE PROS AND CONS OF STRONGMAN RULE IN CHECHNYA
“In the economic context Russia has no interest in seeing the emergence in Chechnya of a strong new leader [who would embezzle still more federal subsidies], but on the level of politics some such figure is absolutely necessary to Moscow. There is no immediately obvious way out of this dilemma, caused by the need to bring into harmony the various military, political and economic processes needed to rebuild the republic.” From an analysis by Natalya Serova, published by the Politcom.ru website on May 20.
— GAZPROM EYES CHECHEN GAS PIPELINE COMPANY
The Russian natural-gas monopoly Gazprom, which has often served the Kremlin as a lever of political influence over other former Soviet republics, apparently stands ready to play a similar role in Chechnya. Valeria Korchagina reported in the English-language Moscow Times on May 19 that Gazprom is seeking to take over Chechengazprom, which operates about 100 kilometers of main pipelines in partnership with the Chechen administration. Gazprom’s deputy board chairman Alexander Ryazanov said the gas giant could cut the Chechen gas network’s enormous losses from theft and also lower prices to Chechen consumers by subsidizing the republic from its profits in other regions.
— EIGHT RUSSIAN SOLDIERS KILLED IN CHECHNYA OVER 24-HOUR PERIOD
Eight servicemen in the pro-Moscow forces in Chechnya – seven Russian soldiers and one Chechen police officer – died in action against the rebel guerrillas during a 24-hour period ending on May 23, the Associated Press reported. The clashes included a firefight near the town of Achkhoi-Martan in western Chechnya and more than a dozen attacks on various Russian positions elsewhere.
One of the Russians died when his armored personnel carrier was blown up by a mine in Grozny. A gunman in a passing car shot the police officer was dead while he was patrolling the streets of Argun east of Grozny.
As usual, AP’s source was an official in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration who requested anonymity.
— INGUSHETIA PLAGUED BY KIDNAPPINGS
Ingushetia has seen more than 40 kidnappings since the beginning of this calendar year, according to an estimate by human-rights groups reported on May 24 by the Associated Press. The kidnappings follow the pattern familiar from Chechnya, committed by masked men using cars without license plates. Though the victims are usually Ingush, it is thought that they are taken to the same destination as kidnapped Chechens: Khankala, the main Russian base in Chechnya.
Alexander Petrov of Human Rights Watch told the news agency that “statistically, the number of abductions in Ingushetia is nearly as high as in Chechnya.” “Ingushetia has become no less dangerous than Chechnya in this regard,” Petrov added.