Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 91

A group of new young officers in Chechnya’s police force were sworn in yesterday (May 9) in Djohar (Grozny), the republic’s capital. The swearing-in ceremony was timed to coincide with Victory Day, marking the 56th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. On hand for the ceremony were Stanislav Il’yasov, the head of Chechnya’s government, and Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of the republic’s administration. According to Kadyrov, 2,000 new police officers were sworn in around the republic yesterday (Russian agencies, May 9).

The Russian authorities have placed rather great hopes in the Chechen police force. Its participation in the battle against separatist rebels is supposed to demonstrate to the international community both that the conflict in Chechnya is not a colonial war and that a significant portion of the republic’s population supports the Kremlin. Thus far, however, the Chechen police force has not lived up to these hopes. Indeed, during trips to Chechnya during the period of 1999-2000–when a militia headed by Bislan Gantamirov, who is now mayor of Grozny, was serving as the republic’s police force–the Monitor’s correspondent on more than one occasion heard Russian soldiers charge that the Chechen police force was riddled with separatist infiltrators. These suspicions were not unfounded: investigators discovered that the attack on Russian OMON special police commandos, which took place in the Chechen capital in the winter of 2000, had been carried out by members of Gantamirov force. The loyalty of the Chechen police force still remains in doubt: the bomb that destroyed the offices of the anti-organized crime unit in the city of Gudermes several weeks ago was apparently placed in the building by someone from within that police unit’s ranks (see the Monitor, April 27).

Meanwhile, Gantamirov himself has stirred up controversy in recent days. On April 5, in the wake of a series of murders of ethnic Russians in Djohar, he ordered city police units to shoot on sight anyone involved in such murders and promised that he would personally reward anyone who carried out his orders. Two days later, he repeated his order, saying that persons who have committed crimes–such as a terrorist who is planting a bomb or who has murdered someone–should be executed without prior arrest or trial. He said that only harsh measures could normalize the situation in the capital and “save dozens of lives.” Gantamirov’s comments were heavily criticized by Russian officials, including Vladimir Kalamanov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for human rights in Chechnya, who called the order a crude violation of the law, and Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who called it “extremist.” The Prosecutor General’s Office announced that it had begun an investigation into Gantamirov’s statements. All of the officials who commented on Gantamirov’s demarche suggested that it had been an emotional outburst and apparently hoped he would take it back (Russian agencies, May 5; Russian agencies, Radio Ekho Moskvy,, May 7).

Gantamirov, however, has refused to repent: In an interview with the pro-Kremlin website, he vowed he would never rescind his order and repeated that persons caught preparing terrorist acts should be shot on sight. He contended and that the law did not prohibit such summary executions (, May 8).