Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 224

Federal forces in Chechnya continued to carry out special operations this week aimed at destroying rebel bases and tracking down persons directly involved in “illegal armed formations.” According to the Russian military, its forces captured several rebels in the Gudermes region belonging to the group commanded by Shamil Basaev. The military also claimed it killed six rebels and captured two during a battle near the town of Urus-Martan. In Shali, federal forces discovered and destroyed a rebel arms cache, while rebel fighters blew up an administrative building in the town of Krychaloe. Rebel forces fired on army and police positions seventeen times in separate incidents around the republic over November 27-28. Six Russian soldiers were killed by rebel fire, eleven wounded (Russian agencies, November 28).

The news coming out of Chechnya has become so unchanging of late that is getting almost monotonous, except for the terrible fact that it involves the deaths of human beings. General-Lieutenant Vyacheslav Brycheev, head of the Interior Ministry’s main personnel department, reported this week that 1,050 Interior Ministry soldiers and staff had been killed in the Chechen conflict since August 2, 1999 (Russian agencies, November 28).

In general, the current military operation in Chechnya increasingly resembles the previous one, and not just in terms of the Russian military’s inability to suppress guerrilla resistance. On November 28, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree creating a new ministry for coordinating the activities of the executive organs of power aimed at providing for Chechnya’s socioeconomic development. Vladimir Yelagin, first deputy chairman of Gosstroi, the state construction oversight committee, was picked to head the new ministry (Russian agencies, November 28).

During the 1994-1996 military campaign in Chechnya the Kremlin also made much of Chechnya’s socioeconomic development, hoping that material aid would win over local residents. Chechens began to receive compensation for Stalin’s forced deportation of the Chechens in 1994. Buildings which had been destroyed by the Russian air force in the center of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital, were rebuilt. In 1995, small radio-producing factory was up and running in the capital. But the rebuilt buildings were destroyed when the rebels retook the capital, while money earmarked for Chechnya’s socioeconomic development was pocketed by Bislan Gantemirov, who was then–as now–mayor of Djohar. The current reconstruction effort is apparently having similar problems. Sergei Stepashin, head of the Audit Chamber, the state’s budgetary watchdog agency, reported today that an audit of reconstruction work in Chechnya had found that reconstruction funds were being spent “irrationally.” “We must admit that the situation is simply pathetic,” Stepashin told reporters. “Nothing is being rebuilt there and nothing works” (Russian agencies, December 1).

There are other analogies between the two military campaigns. Now, as in 1996, Moscow is getting increasingly at odds with Gantemirov. In the current campaign, Gantemirov first showed his obstinacy several months ago, when his armed followers blocked the building of Chechnya’s provisional administration. Gantemirov recently called for a halt to Moscow’s military operation in Chechnya and for an immediate recertification of all of the republic’s policemen, the majority of whom, he claimed, were working with the rebels. The heads of Russia’s Interior Ministry, however, deny Gantemirov’s claim. Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin said this week that the Chechen police force had been carefully selected (ORT, November 28). It is worth noting that during the previous Chechen campaign, Gantemirov claimed that the Russian army was ineffective against the rebels. Soon afterwards, he was arrested for allegedly stealing funds earmarked for Chechen reconstruction.