Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 12

General Arkady Yedelev, head of the Regional Operations Headquarters for the Anti-Terrorist Operation, said on March 19 that a delegation of officials from the G8 would visit Chechnya to study Russia’s counter-terrorism experience in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported on March 19. “Our measures to counter terrorism have attracted attention from the U.S. Department of State,” the news agency quoted him as saying at a news conference in Grozny. “The department asked us through the Russian Foreign Ministry [about visiting] Chechnya to study our unique experience, which is expected to be applied in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

According to Interfax, Yedelev added that at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s initiative, it was decided to extend the invitation beyond the U.S. State Department. “Not only the delegation of the U.S. Department of State, but also delegations from other Group of Eight member states will be received at the level of the Chechen authorities,” he said. “We backed such an initiative and are ready to receive G8 representatives and to present our experience to them.” Yedelev also said that during the year and a half in which Ramzan Kadyrov was Chechen prime minister, the republic “fully changed its appearance,” as did counter-terrorism measures in the republic, with the main focus shifting to “leaders of illegal armed groups” and individual militants who are “unwilling to lay down arms.”

Asked to comment on the reported planned arrival of a U.S. State Department delegation in Chechnya, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax on March 21 that it has been possible to find common ground with many of those who once fought against Russia and to win them over to Russia’s side. “Today we have proved to the whole world that Chechnya is the most peaceful region and is capable of protecting Russia,” Kadyrov was quoted as saying

There has been no publicly reported confirmation of Yedelev’s claim that the U.S. State Department and officials of other G8 countries will visit Chechnya to study Russia’s counter-terrorism experience there. It is interesting to note, however, that a senior U.S. State Department official was quoted on March 20 as directly criticizing Ramzan Kadyrov’s rule in Chechnya as part of an overall critique of the human rights situation in Russia. The Associated Press report on March 21 quoted David J. Kramer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, as expressing concern about Kadyrov’s recent appointment as Chechen president. “We hope the situation there stabilizes, but the new president of Chechnya doesn’t bode very well for that, I fear,” Kramer told reporters in Brussels ahead of talks with European Union officials to coordinate policy toward Russia and the EU’s other former-Soviet neighbors. Kramer stated more broadly of the state of democracy in Russia and U.S.-Russian relations: “The trends unfortunately are not going in the right direction. We hope those trends will not continue.”