The Chechen Interior Ministry categorically denied media reports that members of Chechnya’s law enforcement structures had defected to the rebels, Interfax reported on March 25 (see Chechnya Weekly, March 16). “An analysis of the publications points to the fact that certain media at someone’s suggestion … launched an ideological campaign of provocation against the law enforcement organs of Chechnya,” Chechen Interior Ministry press secretary Ruslan Atsaev told the news agency. He claimed that in the last year there has not been a single case of a Chechen law-enforcer defecting to the rebel side, adding that a number of media had reported the same “completely fictitious information that 40 or more police officers went over to the militants with their weapons in the Vedeno district. We would like to find out the names of these people, given that the entire staff of the Vedeno ROVD [Regional Department of Internal Affairs] is in place…and fulfilling its functional duties.” Atsaev also denied that the security operation ongoing in Chechnya’s mountains is aimed at finding police officers who have defected. The operation was launched at the beginning of March with the goal of uncovering rebel bases and arms caches, Atsaev insisted, adding that “most importantly, the participants in the operation are searching for the leaders of the NVF [illegal armed formations [Shamil] Basaev, [Dokku] Umarov, [Rappani] Khalilov.”
Atsaev further claimed that the “illegal armed formations” in Chechnya have practically been “smashed,” but that “preventive measures” must be carried out if even a single person planning to carry out “terrorist acts” or “shoot peaceful citizens and servicemen” remains in the mountains. Atsaev reiterated that “false information” reported in “certain media” about the defection of law enforcement officers had been checked and that not a single defection had been confirmed. The Chechen Interior Ministry leadership, he said, “believes that certain forces are troubled by the fact that the situation in Chechnya is normalizing, that intensive measures are being carried out to restore the economy and the social sphere, and our ill-wishers have added a new tactic to their arsenal—acts of provocation connected to an ideological attack on the law enforcement organs of Chechnya.”
Responding to Atsaev, the separatist Kavkazcenter website wrote on March 25: “Despite the denial, everyone in Chechnya knows that about 100 of Kadyrov’s men, headed by a commander known as ‘Molla,’ fled to the mountains during the first few days of March carrying weapons. Many of those who fled have already left Chechnya. Some of the deserters are trying to establish contact with the mujahideen command.” Also on March 25, Kavkazky Uzel quoted a source in the Chechen Prosecutor’s Office as confirming that the policemen had gone over to the rebel side. “People spoke about this here in Grozny already at the beginning of March,” the source told the website. “But there were no official reports. Nor have criminal proceedings in connection with this been instituted in our office.”
Kavkazcenter also reported on March 25 that Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev had “confirmed the fact of the flight of a large group of Kadyrovites into the mountains, information about which the Russian occupiers and their puppets have so far concealed.” Citing the separatist Daymohk information agency, Kavkazcenter quoted Sadulaev as saying that the “mujahideen” do not need the defectors but are “glad that the chance appeared for deceived people to escape Hell and eternal shame for their descendants.” Sadulaev said that the very fact the Chechen policemen had defected demonstrated that the consciousness of those people, who had been deceived by “the Russian infidels and [Chechen] hypocrites,” had begun to be restored. While reiterating that the rebels did not need the “fugitive collaborationists,” he promised that those whose hands were not stained with the blood of their own people would have the chance to “remain among the living” and “to help the mujahideen and simple people.” “We do not desire your death and we do not desire that you end up in Hell,” Sadulaev said. “We want you to reform without being forced to destroy you.” But he added: “When this war is over, the finger will be pointed at you and your children and it will be said that when the mujahideen were fighting for freedom, their fathers were informers. This will be a heavy stigma of shame for you and your descendants.”
Meanwhile, Ramzan Kadyrov reported on March 23 that more than 1,000 employees of Chechnya’s Interior Ministry have been killed over the course of the military campaign in Chechnya. “This figure shows that Interior Ministry employees have been waging a fierce struggle against terrorist organizations,” Interfax quoted Kadyrov as telling Chechen Interior Ministry personnel. Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov, for his part, told Interfax that about 3,000 policemen had sustained wounds of various degrees of severity in fighting with separatists during the same period.