The Russian government is continuing to reinforce the administrative border between Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus. A joint command exercise began yesterday in the border regions. Scheduled to last five days, it will involve 15,000 personnel from all the services involved in maintaining law and order in the region: the Interior Ministry, the North Caucasus Military District, the Federal Security Service and the Federal Border Guards. The aim is to ensure that the services can work together in the event of terrorism, hostage-taking, civil unrest and smuggling. The chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, is observing the exercise–which is under the overall supervision of the Interior Ministry’s newly created North Caucasus headquarters in Stavropol. The exercise does not mean that preparations are underway for combat operations, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin assured staff when the headquarters opened earlier this month. But, he stressed, “the situation in the North Caucasus makes it imperative that narrow departmental interests do not impede practical work.” (NTV, July 25; Itar-Tass, RTR, July 27)
KIRIENKO EXPECTED TO MEET MASKHADOV THIS WEEK.