The main news out of Chechnya involves the continuing clashes between Russian troops and Chechen rebels. On September 17, Russian Interior Ministry units carried out a special operation in the southern mountainous regions of Chechnya. According to the Russian military, six Chechen fighters were killed and one captured when they attempted to break out of the village of Chechen-Aul in the direction of Stary Atagi. Meanwhile, Russian troops defused two mines discovered in the Chechen capital of Djohar (Grozny) and its suburbs, an explosive device found on the outskirts of Shali and two antitank mines discovered in the Naursky region. According to official data from Moscow, nine Russian soldiers were killed and sixty-six wounded last week in Chechnya. Three of the nine killed and twenty-nine of those wounded were from the army, while six of the dead and thirty-seven of those wounded were from Interior Ministry units (Radio Liberty, September 17; Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 16).
That the Kremlin has not managed, after a year of fighting, to suppress the Chechen resistance is forcing its allies in the republic to distance themselves from their erstwhile sponsors in Moscow. On September 17, Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the provisional administration in Chechnya, for the first time openly criticized Moscow’s policy in the republic. Kadyrov said during a press conference in Gudermes that the Russian military command should long ago have ceased massed detentions of civilians not involved in the fighting. Kadyrov did not rule out that the Chechen population would mount a protest over such practices. “I am forced to admit that the people in this case would be right,” Kadyrov stated (Russian agencies, September 17).
Meanwhile, NTV television reported last night that Russian military personnel had prevented it from broadcasting live from Khankala, the Russian military base just outside the Chechen capital. “Itogi,” the channel’s weekly news analysis program, planned to broadcast a live interview with Bislan Gantemirov, Kadyrov’s deputy, concerning Kadyrov’s criticism of Moscow. However according to NTV, military officials prevented the channel’s correspondent from going on the air live from Khankala and struck a cameraman. After this, a live NTV interview with an OMON special police commando, who indirectly confirmed that the previous incident had taken place, was interrupted when an unidentified person blocked the camera. Today, NTV showed scenes from the interview with the OMON commando taken by another camera operator, which showed a military officer blocking the camera with his hand. The channel also read a statement by General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, who claimed that NTV had staged all of the attempts to prevent its broadcasts and that the channel’s correspondent had crudely violated the law. The same NTV correspondent claimed that a Russian military officer had threatened to kill him (Russian agencies, September 18).
IS MOSCOW RESTARTING A COLD WAR WITH THE BALTS?