On December 6, while visiting the city of Yekaterinburg, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that Russia intends to crush Chechen separatist resistance with a winter offensive targeting the guerillas’ military leadership. “Special operations are being conducted right now in Chechnya, practically on a permanent basis, and involving a large number of forces,” Ivanov declared. “This winter we will seek to finish off the remaining bandit groups, and capture or destroy their ringleaders. This I promise you,” he pledged in comments broadcast over Russian television (Reuters, December 6). The following day Ivanov underlined that “the federal center has no intention of conducting any negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov.” Rather, he emphasized, the federal center intends to conduct a dialogue with Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow head of administration in Chechnya (Strana.ru, December 7).
On December 2, on the pages of the newspaper Izvestia, Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, commander of the Combined Group of Russian Forces in Chechnya, announced that, “By April 1, 2002, there will remain in the republic the 42nd Motor-Rifle Division, the 46th Brigade of the [MVD] Internal Troops, and the military commandants’ offices…. The number serving in the twenty commandants’ offices–sixteen district offices and four in the city of Grozny–will be about 8,000 persons.”