Chechnya: Bombings, Shootings and Counter-Terrorist Operations Persist

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 10 Issue: 17

RIA Novosti reported on April 25 that three explosions and a shooting over the previous 24-hour period in Chechnya had left one soldier dead and three wounded. A law enforcement source told the news agency that a soldier was killed when gunmen fired on a temporary checkpoint in Elistanzhy in the Vedeno district, while a local police officer in the republican capital Grozny was wounded when two explosions occurred 150 meters from the Sultan Bilmkhanov soccer stadium. The source said a third explosion went off as bomb disposal teams worked to clear the site, wounding a military commander and a member of the Chechen presidential security service.

On April 24, the military commandant of Grozny, Colonel Igor Magkeyev, was wounded by an improvised explosive device. Agence France-Presse quoted an anonymous local police official as saying that the makeshift explosive had been planted in garbage next to a store in Grozny and that Magkeyev was hospitalized but that his injuries were not serious.

Meanwhile, just a week after the Russian government formally announced that its counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya was over (North Caucasus Weekly, April 17 and 24), Interfax reported that the Russian military had launched new counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya’s Shali, Shatoi and Vedeno districts on April 24. The news agency quoted officials as saying that militants were “intensifying their activities” and that “terrorist attacks” targeting “executive authorities and law enforcement officials” were being planned.

Itar-Tass on April 24 quoted a spokesman for the Russian military’s operational headquarters for Chechnya, Vladimir Patrin, as saying that the new counter-terrorist operations in the three districts meant that counter-terrorist operations were now in five areas of the republic. Patrin said that counter-terrorist operations had been taking place in a number of villages of the Itum-Kale district and the highland areas of the Vedeno district since April 20. “The headquarters has decided to conduct operations in the areas where militants have stepped up their activities,” Patrin said.

Kavkazky Uzel on April 24 quoted Chechens as expressing concern over reports of renewed counter-terrorist operations in the republic. The website quoted an anonymous head of a local non-governmental organization as saying that he and some of his colleagues had predicted that the military and special services would not agree to end the counter-terrorist operation and would do what they could to ensure that tensions persisted in Chechnya. “The latest events have shown that we were right,” he said, adding that he could not rule out that something similar to the 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow, Volgodonsk and other Russian cities, which became the official pretext for launching the second Russian military offensive in Chechnya, could take place. “I mean that major acts of terror or assassinations of political figures may occur in Grozny or somewhere else and that may become a pretext for increasing repression and abolishing the Kremlin’s decision to lift the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov on April 24 “angrily denied and expressed surprise” at media reports that counter-terrorist operations had been launched again in some of the republic’s districts, Interfax reported.

“I am chairman of [republican] the anti-terrorism commission,” Kadyrov told the news agency. “And it is the commission that must be the first to decide on a counterterrorist operation. We control the situation in every district and in every town and village, and we are convinced there is no reason for disseminating statements that an operation is underway. If there is an operation underway, who does it target and where is it taking place? What militants are there in Mesker-Yurt, Belgatoi and Avtury of Shali district, and in the other districts that are mentioned? Has anyone seen any special operations being conducted in that region today? Of course not.”