Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 28

The rebel guerrillas are still in such a strong position in Chechnya–whether from genuine popular support, or from their ability to intimidate, or from some combination of the two–that they are able to collect “taxes” from much of the civilian population and even from employees of the Kadyrov administration. That claim now comes not only from the rebels themselves, but from sources within what is perhaps the most elite force of all the Russian armed services–the “Alpha” commando group.

On July 28, Novaya gazeta published an anonymous letter from members of the Alpha unit that strongly criticized the leadership of the FSB and the Ministry of the Interior on a variety of issues. Regarding Chechnya, where every member of Alpha has served in combat against the separatist rebels, the letter insisted that “the situation there is not improving at all–in spite of what is shown on television. The rebels feel completely confident even in the center, in Grozny, to say nothing of the highland areas. Financial ‘tributes’ to the rebels are paid by everyone, from ordinary residents to members of the Chechen police. Our military base at Khankala is guarding only itself, not the civilian populace. It is highly dangerous for our troops to move about the city without reinforced escorts; they can be shot at from anywhere.”

The letter also charged that “according to a decree from Kadyrov, approved by the Kremlin, almost all the rebels who lay down their arms are automatically enrolled in the Chechen police.”