Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 78

Ingush President Ruslan Aushev told a press conference on April 21 that, according to information in his possession, last week’s attack on a Russian military convoy (see the Monitor, April 17) might have been committed in order to cover up the fact that the unit the high-ranking officers were visiting had sold arms and ammunition to Chechen fighters. According to Aushev, himself a former Soviet army general, the General Staff had sent a commission to investigate allegations of illegal arms sales. (NTV, RTR, April 21) Earlier, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov also said it was possible that the Russian officers were killed in order to prevent them from carrying out an inspection. (See the Monitor, April 21)

Aushev’s assertion comes as no surprise. During the war in Chechnya, the Russian press often cited concrete evidence that the Russian military was selling arms to Chechen fighters. On one memorable occasion, Russian Television’s “Sovershenno sekretno” (Top Secret) even showed film, taken with a hidden camera, of such a transaction taking place. Speaking to the Monitor, Hoj-Ahmed Nukhaev, one of the main suppliers of money and arms for the Chechen fighters, said that weapons could always be bought from Russian soldiers: The only problem was to find the money.

Aushev had another possible explanation for the attack: Those who attacked the convoy might, he said, have been trying to kill General Anatoly Kvashnin, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, who would have been traveling with the convoy had he not been detained in conversation with Aushev. Kvashnin headed the North Caucasus Military District during the war in Chechnya and has an infamous reputation there. According to Aushev, Kvashnin’s assassination might have provoked the Kremlin into declaring a state of emergency in the North Caucasus and sending additional troops there. Such a development, in Aushev’s opinion, would have suited the interests of those leaders who would like to blame their domestic policy failures on the situation in the Caucasus. Although Aushev did not spell out whom he meant, he appeared to be referring to Russia’s present leadership.