Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 12

In mid-March, there were a flurry of announcements in the Russian press that Russia had begun reducing the size of its military force in Chechnya. The Associated Press reported: “Russia began a series of widely televised ceremonies marking a limited withdrawal from Chechnya on March 13, as the 80,000-strong military and police force is to be gradually reduced by about 25,000 army troops” (AP, March 15). On that same day, Russian State Television (RTR) announced on its “Vesti” news program, “Today there departed about 4,000 troops [from the 74th Motor Rifle Brigade].” Gazeta.ru, however, stipulated that “not more than 300-350 servicemen” had actually departed that day from Chechnya (Gazeta.ru, March 14).

Kommersant noted the opinion of a majority of the Chechens that its reporters had interviewed: “They call the withdrawal of forces which has begun a demonstration of peaceloving intentions for the West.” In fact, what is happening, the Chechens say, “is a regrouping of the forces of the Ministry of Defense.” One of the journalists for Kommersant reported that he had witnessed with his own eyes “how from the direction of Mozdok [North Ossetia] toward Chechnya there was moving an enormous column of the Ministry of Defense,” including “a large quantity of armor and trucks carrying soldiers” (Kommersant, March 14).