Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 163

Police in Moscow yesterday broke up an unauthorized demonstration marking the tenth anniversary of the proclamation of Chechnya’s independence. According to the Interfax news agency, the police detained around ten demonstrators who were holding antiwar placards. Another antiwar demonstration in Moscow, organized by the For Civil Rights movement, passed off peacefully. Demonstrations against the war in Chechnya were also held in Ukraine and Georgia. Some seventy Chechen refugees and Georgian human rights activists picketed the Russian embassy in Tbilisi, and some fifty demonstrators demanding an end to the Chechen war gathered outside the Russian consulate in Odessa. Religious ceremonies in memory of those killed during the two wars were reportedly held in villages across Chechnya (Radio Liberty, September 6).

On September 6, 1991, the National Congress of the Chechen People, headed by a former Soviet general, Djohar Dudaev, dissolved the communist-controlled Supreme Soviet of Checheno-Ingushetia (Ingushetia became a separate republic only in 1992) and passed a Declaration on State Sovereignty. At the time, no one in Moscow paid much attention to the events in Djohar (Grozny), given that they were only a small part of the “parade of sovereignties” that was taking place throughout all the republics, big and small, of the collapsed Soviet empire. In addition, Boris Yeltsin’s team was busy trying to consolidate power in the Kremlin. Yet the Chechen republic’s declaration of independence would eventually become the basis of its dispute with Moscow, which led to two wars and the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Dudaev, who became Chechnya’s first president, told the Monitor’s correspondent in January 1996 that no group within the former Soviet Union had lost so many people in its struggle for independence or deserved freedom as the Chechens. Dudaev himself was killed four months later, in April 1996.

Mayrbek Vachagaev, a special envoy of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, said yesterday that rebel forces would mark the anniversary with only “routine actions,” but went on to claim that they had attacked Russian military commandant’s offices in the towns of Argun, Gudermes, Urus-Martan, Shali and Vedeno. He also said rebels were in “complete control” of Argun’s railway station (Radio Ekho Moskvy, September 6). The Interfax news agency quoted a senior official in the North Caucasus headquarters of the Russian military was quoted as calling Vachagaev’s statements “yet another piece of rubbish” and the rebel claims to have seized Russian military commandant’s offices as “yet another brazen lie.” For his part, Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya, vowed that the rebels, whom he called “treacherous bandits,” would be unable to mount large-scale attacks to mark the anniversary of the independence proclamation (Interfax, September 6).

Earlier this week, federal forces began instituting special security measures in connection with the anniversary, beefing up police patrols in the Chechen capital and while stepping up document checks and searches of vehicles at police checkpoints. Despite the increased security in the capital, a bomb exploded near a police station in its Oktyabrsk district, wounding three policemen. The rebels carried out bomb attacks in other parts of the republic: On September 5, a Russian armored personnel carrier was blown up by a remote-controlled mine near the village of Alkhan-Kala. The mine detonated ammunition inside the vehicle. Two Russian servicemen were killed in the incident. Meanwhile, the official Itar-Tass news agency reported that Russian helicopters had carried out missile attacks on rebel positions in the districts of Itum-Kale and Vedeno in southeastern and southern Chechnya, killing at least twenty-four rebels (Russian agencies, Radio Liberty, September 6).