Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 21

In the May 25 issue of Moskovsky Komsomolets, journalist Yulia Kalinina analyzed the large-scale plundering of Russian government funds earmarked for support of social services and the restoration of buildings and infrastructure in Chechnya. “The budget money which reaches Chechnya,” Kalinina summed up, “is for the most part stolen.” A major problem, she stressed, is the lack of any consistent auditing of how the allocated funds are spent and whether they are spent (or merely pocketed). The Russian Audit Chamber conducts only sporadic reviews of the accounts and, in the audits that they do perform, “they only check to see if the numbers add up.” Funds allocated to restore a building, to repair a system of water pipes, or to buy a tractor are likely to be spent, instead, on a corrupt official’s Volga automobile. Without any audits, who can tell? When a real investigation is conducted, corruption is likely to be discovered. “For example, 800,000 rubles were paid out last year for seeds which were to be sent to Chechnya. Has anything grown from those seeds or not? The Control Administration of the Ministry of Finance checked thirteen state farms, and in all thirteen it had to open criminal cases.” Nothing, it turned out, had been planted at the farms, and indeed the seeds which had been paid for had never reached Chechnya. Instead, they had been sold a second time in Stavropol Krai.

In addition to the Ministry of Finance, Kalinina continued, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the EES (electricity monopoly) pay out money for Chechnya. “Here, too, it is impossible to check anything.” Even the payment of wages and pensions-a major budget item-“is checked by no one.” It emerges that funds for wages and pensions in Chechnya are received “not by the heads of administration and not by accountants, but by the [Russian] military.” A representative of a district military commandant’s office receives the money in cash in Mozdok (North Ossetia) and then transports it by car into Chechnya. Only the district commandant’s office knows how this money is actually spent. When the chief controller of Chechnya wanted to take a look, he was brusquely cold-shouldered by the military. “The commandants’ offices don’t let our inspectors get near them,” he confided to Kalinina. It appears that a number of Chechens for whom wage and pension funds are received by the military are in fact so-called “dead souls,” persons dead or not living at their previous addresses. In addition, “No-one in general knows how many people really live in Chechnya.”

The no. 21 (May 15-21) issue of Moskovskie Novosti carried an investigative article written by journalist Aleksandr Tolmachev concerning the ongoing massive theft of oil from Chechnya. Every night–during curfew–military and other vehicles form up in convoys of twenty and transport up to 2,000 tons of oil, as well as other valuable materials looted from destroyed plants, such as non-ferrous metals and electric wiring, out of Chechnya into Stavropol krai and other adjacent regions. They pass by the military checkpoints without any difficulties. A joke going around the republic is: “When the oil and gasoline are used up, then the war will end.” “Oil,” Tolmachev notes, “is stolen both by local criminals and by the federal soldiers, and sometimes they make a deal and steal it together.” Asked to comment on this report, presidential representative Viktor Kazantsev confided: “I know about it [the thefts]. I get reports. Everyone is involved in thievery: the police, the armed forces, and the local populace. What can I say? One should ask General [Valery] Baranov: ‘Why do the columns pass the checkpoints at night without any hindrance?'” (Moskovskie Novosti, May 22). General Baranov, commander of the Russian Combined Group of Forces in Chechnya, it should be noted, is currently taking a hastily announced 45-day vacation, and it seems likely that he will not be returning to his post.