Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 211

With the huge number of kidnappings taking place in and around Chechnya, it is perhaps not surprising that some are calling for extreme anticrime measures. In a televised speech on Wednesday, Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov declared that “only guillotines, gallows and unlimited cruelty can defeat crime in Chechnya, which is on a scale that is approaching war.” Arsanov said the responsibility for the current lawlessness rests with the leadership of the Chechen Republic–including himself, President Aslan Maskhadov, former Acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev, the speaker of the parliament and Chechnya’s mufti, field commander Ruslan Gelaev and many others. Vice President Arsanov demanded that field commander Salman Raduev turn himself in to serve the prison sentence handed down against him by the republic’s Supreme Sharia Court. (The court sentenced Raduev to a four-year imprisonment for attempting a coup.) Arsanov also charged that former aides to Doku Zavgaev, who headed the pro-Kremlin Chechen government during the war, have wound up serving in Maskhadov’s government. At the same time, Arsanov categorically denied rumors that there were fundamental disagreements and contradictions between him and Maskhadov (NTV, RTR, November 11).

Arsanov’s speech is noteworthy primarily for the fact that it was the first time the vice president had commented on the situation in the country since the eruption of the conflict between Maskhadov and field commanders Shamil Basaev, Salman Raduev and Khukar Israpilov. Given that Arsanov is a member of the organizing committee of the Association of Participants in the Russo-Chechen War, which has denounced Maskhadov’s policies, many observers believe that Arsanov has now moved into opposition to the Chechen president. Other indirect proof of discord between the president and vice president is the fact that Arsanov remained silent for more than a month while Maskhadov and the three field commanders fought publicly. It is clear, however, from Arsanov’s speech Wednesday (November 11) that the vice president still does not want to move into open conflict with Maskhadov. As to Arsanov’s suggestions concerning exotic ways of fighting crime, none of that should be surprising. First of all, it is not completely out of place for the current reality in Chechnya: Public punishment of criminals has been carried out several times, and corporal punishment is carried out regularly. But it is also necessary to take Arsanov’s personal qualities into consideration. A former captain in the State Automobile Inspectorate (GAI–Russia’s traffic police), Arsanov developed a questionable reputation once he became Chechnya’s vice president. Among other things, he kicked President Boris Yeltsin’s representative to Chechnya out of the republic, and announced Chechnya would retaliate against the United States for its attacks on terrorist sites in Sudan and Afghanistan last summer.