The March 7 issue of the newspaper Segodnya contained an interview with the former Russian minister of internal affairs, retired General Anatoly Kulikov, who is currently chairman of the subcommittee of the State Duma for legislation in the sphere of the struggle with transnational crime and terrorism. During the course of the interview, Kulikov presented his plan for the pacification of Chechnya.
Kulikov began by applauding President Putin’s recent decision to turn over the heading up of the present operation in Chechnya to the FSB. “I consider it justified. It was even done, I believe, with delay. About a half a year ago, there had already taken place basic changes: The main bandit formations had been destroyed and partially dispersed.” Over the past half year, the rebels have adopted “partisan methods,” which means that the federal forces have had to change their own tactics.
General Kulikov was less enthusiastic about the plan of the head of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, to station small military units in most Chechen population points: “Recently I heard that they plan to establish garrisons in each population point of Chechnya and, working with the [pro-Moscow] Chechen militia, to ensure the security of the populace.” Kulikov underlined, “I am categorically not in agreement. In Chechnya there are approximately 320 population points. Let us take even 250 (earlier the General Staff cited the figure of 272). In each population point, one must station, at a minimum, a platoon. Just count how many companies, battalions and regiments that will amount to…. Are the armed forces in a position to provide such a number of men? And, further, what can a platoon do? A platoon is in a position to defend its own point of basing, and, in the best case, during the daytime, to put out a single checkpoint. At night it will take up a circle defense and then find itself under constant fire from the rebels. In this way, the troops will once and for all decay, while the initiative will pass fully from the federal forces to the bandits.”
Kulikov urges that Kvashnin’s unworkable plan be jettisoned. In its place, he recommends: “Use the experience of the struggle with the national underground in Western Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltics from 1944-1951. Divide the territory of Chechnya into zones of responsibility (they can coincide with the republic’s administrative districts). In each district (there are twenty-one there), base, at a minimum, a battalion consisting of 150-300 men. And station an operational group at the battalion. Among the group’s number will be three to five FSB officers who will be in charge and responsible for the results of the actions in their zone. An employee of the military procuracy should also be there.”
One chief task of the FSB-led operational group should be to plan and head up operations aimed at the “liquidation” of the leaders of the rebels. In three or four of the Chechen districts, Kulikov also recommends the stationing of “spetsnaz forces of the MVD and GRU, who would be used (together with army aviation and artillery) in the case of the appearance of a large bandit formation.” Kulikov contends that his plan would permit “the seizing of the initiative from the bandits and, over the course of two or two-and-a-half years, result in a ‘cleansing’ of the republic and the return of the situation there to normalcy.” If, on the other hand, such a plan is not adopted, he warns, then the conflict “will be endlessly long.”
Asked about the pro-Moscow Chechen police force, which Akhmad Kadyrov, the republic’s Kremlin-appointed chief of administration, wants to expand to 20,000 men, Kulikov responded sarcastically: “Only a man who knows neither the Chechen mentality nor the nature of this conflict can believe in the wisdom of that. Chechens will never war with one another. Let the militia do what it is supposed to: struggle with livestock rustling, with robberies and with murders.” “A carrying out of the proposals of Kadyrov,” Kulikov cautioned, “can result in a legalization of the bandits. And where is he going to find 20,000 policemen? If we follow that path, then we will have to introduce troops for a third time into the republic.”
Kulikov revealed in the course of the interview which he had attempted, without success, to get a meeting with President Putin to discuss his plan. He said that he had been told that presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin had blocked the meeting. “But I did,” he added, “succeed in meeting with the secretary of the Security Council, Sergei Ivanov, and with the leadership of the FSB.”
Asked why the Russian forces have so far been unable to kill the leaders of the Chechen separatists, Kulikov replied: “Because of the particular character of a mono-nation [that is, the Chechens]: Any person of Slavic appearance immediately elicits suspicion.” Questioned about whether the rebels were paying bribes to Russian soldiers so that they could move freely about the republic, Kulikov responded: “I can’t confirm that, but taking into consideration the extent of corruption [in Russia]…. I won’t deny it.”
Asked about an earlier plan for Chechen regulation made public by Duma faction leader Boris Nemtsov (see Chechnya Weekly, February 21), Kulikov replied that Nemtsov’s idea of dividing the Chechen Republic into two zones would have made sense in late 1999 or early 2000. “Today,” he added, “when the [Russian] forces are located de facto over the entire territory of Chechnya, their departure from even one part [of the republic] would inspire the bandits to new efforts. They would see it as a retreat, as a new Khasavyurt [Accord].”
In the course of the interview, Kulikov made two additional proposals to improve Russia’s position in Chechnya: “First, through a presidential decree, make Groznyi a city directly subordinate to the federal government, a subject of the federation [like the cities of Moscow and Petersburg]. For ten years. Otherwise we won’t restore that city, and we won’t restore its oil-processing complex. And no one from a nontitular nation will go there to work…. As soon as everything is restored, Grozny will once again become the capital of Chechnya.” Another suggestion (which Kulikov expressed rather vaguely) is to link each district of Chechnya with three or four oblasts, krais or autonomous republics within the Russian Federation. Those entities would then, for example, help to rebuild a school in a given district.
Asked his opinion of Akhmad Kadyrov, Kulikov observed: “One has to know the mentality of the Chechens: even if [Kadyrov’s] minister of finance is the most honest man around, no one will believe that he doesn’t steal.” Nonetheless, Kulikov went on, “I don’t propose to replace Kadyrov: That train has left the station…. Moreover, the naming of Stanislav Il’yasov [an ethnic Russian appointed the republic’s prime minister], who is a sensible and energetic leader, it seems to me, largely removes the problem.”
To sum up, the views of Anatoly Kulikov–over the years a consistent “hawk” on the subject of Chechnya–constitute a fairly perceptive hardline critique of the weaknesses inherent in Russia’s present approach to Chechnya. It seems unlikely, however, that his own prescription–to return to Stalin’s draconian practices of the late 1940s and early 1950s–would enjoy any greater success than General Kvashnin’s plan, while Kulikov’s quasiracist views concerning the Chechens and their “mentality” can hardly serve to promote improved relations between Russians and Chechens.