Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 1 Issue: 3

There are indications that the Russian Defense Ministry and Ministry of Internal Affairs have resolved to establish a long-term, high-profile military presence in Chechnya. Speaking to reporters at the Khankala Military Base outside of Djohar [Grozny] on November 2, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and General Gennady Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, noted that 3.9 billion rubles have been allotted by the Russian government for the permanent basing of the Forty-second Guards Motor-Rifle Division within the Chechen Republic. This new division (it was created only on May 1) will maintain heavily fortified garrisons in three separate locations: Khankala; Kalinovskaya, located on the northern bank of the Terek River; and Borzoi, situated in the Chechen highlands not far from the destroyed town of Shatoi. The construction of buildings and defense installations for this new military division are to be completed at a Stakhanovite pace. More than 5,200 officers, military construction workers and civilian personnel, plus large amounts of construction equipment, were said to be working flat out so that the new installations could be occupied in the period from November 15-30.

At the same press conference, it was also reported that the Seventieth Regiment (Ministry of Defense) based in Shali, a town southeast of Djohar, will by the spring of 2001 have the buildings and fortifications it needs to perform its duties completed.

Also on November 2, the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs, Vladimir Rushailo, who was on an inspection visit of Chechnya, announced that, as of the previous day, the Forty-sixth Brigade of the MVD’s Internal Troops had begun to carry out its military duties. Rushailo underlined that this brigade would be based in the republic on “a permanent basis.” Its chief tasks would be “to support the organs of internal affairs and all law enforcement structures based in Chechnya.”

In comments made at Khankala military base on November 2, Marshal Sergeev stipulated that the federal troops in Chechnya were now facing “not more than 900 extremists, organized into three large bands.” The Russian online news service, Gazeta.ru., greeted the defense minister’s comments with skepticism in a report issued on November 3. Over the past several months, Gazeta.ru noted, the Russian military have consistently stated that they were opposed by some 2,000 Chechen fighters. Where have 1,100 fighters suddenly disappeared to? And what about the “Arab mercenaries” supposedly fighting with the Chechens? “After all, this summer the military claimed that they [the Arabs] comprised half of all the fighters. And for them to disguise themselves as local inhabitants will be rather difficult.” “So,” Gazeta.ru concluded sarcastically, “one more winter and the military victory in Chechnya will be full and final. At least, in the military reports of the General Staff.”