Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 232

Chechnya’s parliament held an urgent special session Monday (December 14) at which it rejected President Aslan Maskhadov’s decree on a partial mobilization of reservists (see the Monitor, December 14). The parliament declared that the presidential decree violated the republic’s constitution, which says that a mobilization is permissible only in the case of a war with a foreign state. Maskhadov responded by saying that this was not the case, because foreign forces are behind the Chechen criminals at whom the decree was aimed. On Tuesday, however, the parliament decided to compromise with Maskhadov and declared a one-month state of emergency in the republic, starting today (December 16). The executive branch is responsible for implementing the state of emergency (NTV, December 14-15; RTR, December 14). Turpal Atgeriev, Chechnya’s deputy premier, said Tuesday that Maskhadov had not reached a final conclusion on whether or not to impose a curfew on the republic (Russian agencies, December 15).

Constitutional or not, Maskhadov’s decree on a partial mobilization has been essentially carried out. In the two days following its signing, three regiments and nine battalions of reservists were formed. In addition, the Chechen authorities managed to arrest the organizer of the murder of the four Western telecommunications engineers–Opti Abitaev, who confessed to the murders and gave evidence against the remaining participants in the crime (Russian agencies, Kommersant daily, December 15).

It is clear, however, that this latest attempt by the Chechen authorities to impose order on the republic will meet fierce resistance. The fighters of field commander Arbi Baraev, whom the Chechen authorities accused of participation in the kidnapping of the telecommunications engineers, have already begun to harden their defenses in preparation for an attack on their positions (ORT, December 14). It is also clear that Maskhadov’s main opponents, Shamil Basaev and Salman Raduev, will support Baraev. The two influential field commanders have declared that Maskhadov is using an anticrime campaign as a means of dealing with his political opponents. This means that the government’s special services and reservists will face an enemy which is well armed and equal in numbers.