North Caucasus rebels have recently intensified their activity in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan republics, and Chechnya does not seem to be an exception. Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, made yet another attempt last week to come up with an estimate on the total number of rebels operating in Russia’s troubled region. This time it has been decided that the figure stands at 198 according to the list of federally wanted persons by Chechnya’s ministry of internal affairs (MVD) (www.yuga.ru/news/189617/). The official number is some four or five times higher than it has been announced to the public until now, and in order to give an explanation, the Chechen MVD stressed that since the beginning of 2010 authorities have managed to completely undercut recruitment for the armed resistance movement (www.vz.ru/news/2010/5/21/403931.html). This data was announced by Chechnya’s first deputy head of the government, Magomed Daudov. Formerly is a well-known young rebel commander in the Shalin sector, who later joined the Russian-backed Kadyrov government. Daudov has helped to brutally crush the very comrades-in-arms with whom he used to fight a short while ago. Since the end of last year, Daudov, who replaced Adam Demilkhanov in this role, has become a leading figure behind all of the high-profile operations conducted against the rebels throughout Chechnya.
Ramzan Kadyrov did not like the figure his ministry came up with and he immediately started to claim that out of the total 198 militants approximately 30% has already been killed and many of those wanted by the Russian authorities have gone abroad. As a result, Kadyrov argued, at a maximum, 70 to 80 rebels remain in Chechen territory (www.chechnyatoday.com/content/view/8414/135/). It is worth mentioning that some time ago Kadyrov was incensed at the data brought by Russia’s federal security service (FSB), putting the numbers of rebels in Chechnya at 400. He then demanded that the federal authorities disclose their data and explain to the Chechen authorities how they came up with those high numbers about the armed resistance. The rebel side, on its part, has claimed all along that there are up to 5,000 participating in the armed resistance movement throughout the North Caucasus region (www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2010/01/26/70257.shtml).
According to Russian figures, in the course of one year between April 2009, when the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya was officially ended, and April 2010, 97 officers from the MVD, the FSB and the ministry of defense have been killed and 185 have been wounded. By comparison, for the same one year period before the end of the counter-terrorist operation the official figures stood at 52 and 150, respectively. This means that the Russian siloviki had fewer losses during the counter-terrorist operation than after it was terminated. Over the past year, with no anti-terrorist operation officially underway, government forces have liquidated 189 persons claimed to be militants or their collaborators, and captured 186, including some 9 persons who have voluntarily given themselves up to Russian authorities (http://reorgia.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/164059/). This confirms the fact that more rebels have been killed or arrested than shown on the wanted list of Russia’s MVD and FSB. It thus remains unclear who has been liquidated and apprehended between April 2009 and 2010 since those numbers are twice the numbers of rebels on the wanted list.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Chechen resistance movement is having no problem replenishing it ranks through the recruitment of new young fighters. At least this was a charge made against an 18-year-old young man from the village of Makhketa who was detained on May 19, 2010. (www.rosbalt.ru/2010/05/23/739011.html). Needless to say the central and local authorities could easily use this allegation against anyone whom they consider to be unsuitable.
On May 18 one of the most high-profile murders of this year occurred in Chechnya. An explosion on Saykhanov Street in the capital Grozny’s Oktyabrski district killed Lom-Ali Khajiev, the chief of the operative investigative department. In the incident, two police officers and a passer-by were wounded. (www.gazeta.ru/politics/2010/05/18_kz_3369692.shtml). Khajiev, a high-ranking MVD official, was rather independent from the MVD minister and was closely associated with Kadyrov himself. As far as the wounded officers are concerned, one is Artur Saydaev, the head of the Russian MVD’s criminal investigative department for Chechnya and Zakir Bigulatov, the chief of the criminal investigative unit in Grozny’s Oktyabrski district.
May 21 was not a pleasant day for the Chechen leadership either. First, there was an explosion and a fire broke out in Chechnya’s Mozdok-Kazimagomed gas pipeline segment near the border with Dagestan (http://mirtv.ru/content/view/101817). The location which is in the Shelkovsky district of Chechnya is close to the Kizlyar district of Dagestan. As it turned out, though, the blast marked only the beginning of a chain of other rebel actions. The same day there was a car accident in which four police officers deployed to Chechnya from Russia’s northern region were injured. (www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews.shtml?/20100521092732.shtml). Later, a Russian military serviceman was injured on a mine that exploded in Chechnya’s Achkhoy-Martanovsky district (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/168915/). In another incident, on the outskirts of the village of Martan-Chu in the Urus-Martanovsky district of Chechnya, a group of unidentified men fired automatic shots at a car, killing a police officer and a local civilian. Both were killed on the spot (http://reorgia.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/168913/).
In addition, there have been reports of rebels “liquidated” in special operations. At times, Ramzan Kadyrov himself personally participates in them as was the case on May 23 near the village of Serzhen-Yurt in Chechnya’s Shali district. The authorities later reported that two militants – the Yusupkhajiev brothers – had been killed in this special operation. Once again, it remains unclear why these two men could not be found on the MVD’s wanted list or on Interpol’s website.
The authorities do not like the numbers given by Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov on the persons missing as a result of the Chechnya wars. He claims that 5,000 Chechens are missing in the aftermath of the two military campaigns (www.regnum.ru/news/1286105.html). It is worth mentioning that all figures related to the Chechens are openly driven by ideology. Sometimes these numbers are used by the local Chechen authorities to exert pressure on officials in Moscow and sometimes Moscow readjusts the figures in order to minimize Russian guilt in its operations in Chechnya. For instance, when appropriate, Kadyrov likes to say that 250,000 Chechens were killed during the two wars, and this is exactly the number the representatives of the armed resistance usually adhere to. Nonetheless, when Moscow decides to come up with different numbers, the local Chechen authorities usually accept this data without reservation.