Chechen Rebels Replenish their Ranks
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 24
On June 8, The Chechen Committee of the National Salvation (CCNS), a Chechen human rights organization, reported that, according to their information, people in Chechnya are anticipating a serious increase in the number of rebel attacks in the near future. The CCNS stated that people in the republic are nervous because of the large flow of Chechen youth to the mountains to join the insurgency. The rebels primarily recruit from rural areas where living standards are the lowest in the republic. It should be noted that this has been reported not only by independent sources, such as NGOs, but also by officials who admit that a growing number of Chechens have recently become rebels. In a speech that was broadcast on Chechen television on May 23, Sultan Mirzaev, the Mufti of the Chechen Republic, said that around twenty young people from various settlements had “gone into the mountains.” He added: “There will be no more amnesty games with these youths. They will meet their death in the mountains or will sit in prison for the rest of their lives” (Chechnya Weekly, May 24). On May 30, the heads of the rural district administrations, members of parliament, representatives of the Education Ministry, the law-enforcement agencies and the office of the human rights commissioner, clerics and villagers held a meeting in the Nozhai-Yurt district to discuss the problem of the flow of local youth into the mountains. Participants in the meeting spoke about the need to carry out planned programs at schools and to “raise the level of moral upbringing.” They stressed the need to teach children what Wahhabism and extremism really are. This meeting was broadcast throughout Chechnya by the republic’s official Vainakh TV.
Based upon statements posted on the separatist Kavkaz-Center website, rebel commanders claim that during the last six years of war in the region, they have never had so many volunteers seeking to join their ranks as they have today. The CCNS, quoting a source in the Chechen Interior Ministry, stated that about 350 men joined the insurgency this past spring.
In addition to the ordinary Chechens, many policemen and members of the pro-Russian armed formations (kadyrovtsy) are deserting and going over to the side of the rebels. The CCNS reported rumors circulating in the Gudermes district that about 200 kadyrovtsy, including 30 women, have joined the guerillas during the last two weeks. Ruslanbek Sultanov, a Chechen journalist, told Jamestown that the republic is filled with rumors that there have been mass desertions among the police, who are dissatisfied with their low wages and the despotism of their bosses.
On June 13, the fact that a growing number of Chechen law-enforcement officials are joining the rebels was officially admitted by the Russian authorities. The Russian Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement posted on its official website that the “number of illegal armed formations consisting of acting members of law-enforcement bodies have recently increased in Chechnya” (grani.ru, June 13).
If the facts mentioned above are true, this means that Chechen society, including those who work for pro-Russian governing structures, is again turning its head toward the separatists. Perhaps aiming to accelerate this process, the rebels have become more impudent and defiant. The CCNS reported that one night at the end of May, a group of rebels entered the Chechen capital of Grozny and set up a checkpoint near Minutka square in the center of the city. Neither the Russian army units nor the kadyrovtsy dared approach the rebels, preferring to wait for them to leave the city by themselves. On June 1, a motorcade of jeeps with a well-armed rebel squad moved by the village of Gikalo, not far from Grozny. According to the Chechen Independent Information Center (SNO), on the evening of June 11, the rebels erected checkpoints in the Grozny rural district near the villages of Gikalo, Prigorodnoye, Stary Atagi and Chechen-Aul. Two days earlier, on June 9, the rebels set up a mobile post near the Ninth Hospital in the center of Grozny. The rebels retreated only when police forces started to surround the area.
By setting up checkpoints, the gunmen usually intend to check all of the cars that are passing through and look for policemen and FSB officers. They then confiscate the weapons from the policemen whom they manage to detain.
The Information Center also reported that Dokka Umarov, the leader of the Chechen rebels, had ordered the purchase of a large number of military and police uniforms. At the same time, leaflets are being distributed in the republic calling on local police officers to leave their jobs and join the insurgency.
Ruslanbek Sultanov told Jamestown that two weeks ago, several traffic policemen stopped a suspicious-looking car in Katayama, in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district. The car’s passengers – bearded and well-armed rebels – calmly advised the policemen not to work too hard and drove away.