Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 6

Reuters on February 6 quoted a source in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow police as saying that the ceasefire ordered by separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov was holding and that rebel fighters had not attacked Russian forces for three days. On February 3, the separatist Kavkazcenter website reported that Maskhadov had signed the unilateral ceasefire order on January 14 as an “expression of goodwill.” It also published a statement from warlord Shamil Basaev ordering fighters to obey Maskhadov’s decree and halt all offensive military actions until February 22.

The Russian military command in the North Caucasus on February 6 indirectly confirmed that the ceasefire was being observed, stating in its daily press release: “Over the last 24 hours the situation on the territory of the Chechen Republic has been mainly calm.” The police source said militants were continuing to fight in self-defense, and that battles had occurred in Grozny and the village of Starye Atagi after pro-Moscow forces tried to detain rebel fighters. In ordering rebels to cease hostilities temporarily, Shamil Basaev said they were permitted to mine approaches to their bases and to attack enemy forces or hardware involved in reconnaissance or military operations against them. Earlier, on February 4, the Caucasus Times quoted a source in the office of Chechnya’s military commandant as saying that not a single clash between rebel and Russian military forces had occurred during the previous 24 hours.

However, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on February 7 that a homemade explosive device detonated on a busy street in Gronzy’s Oktyabrsky district on February 5, wounding a passerby. Citing the Regional Operation Headquarters of the Counter-Terrorist Operation in the North Caucasus, the newspaper reported that the explosion was timed to coincide with the arrival of a bus carrying construction workers, but that the bus made an unplanned stop, which “saved the passengers’ lives.”