At the same time, polling data indicated that while Putin’s overall popularity remained high, support was softening for a number of his policies, including the “antiterrorist” campaign in Chechnya, which had almost singlehandedly galvanized public support for Putin back in the autumn of 1999, when he was still prime minister and Boris Yeltsin’s heir apparent. According to a poll taken by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), one of the country’s leading polling agencies, in December of last year, only 33 percent of those said they believed that the Chechen military operation had been successful. A year earlier, 70 percent had told VTsIOM they thought the federal forces were winning. The reason for the change in sentiment was not hard to identify. While military officials had been insisting for months that the Chechen rebels had been defeated and that all that remained was some mopping up, it was becoming increasingly clear that the rebels had settled into a highly effective guerrilla war targeting both Russian troops and Chechens who cooperated with the “occupiers,” including local government and religious officials. The first week of the New Year saw a sharp increase in the number of terrorist bombings and ambushes carried out by the rebels throughout the breakaway republic. “We have changed our tactics,” Shamil Basaev, the infamous rebel field commander, told an independent Georgian television station. “We do not have a single front line. We are everywhere, and at the same time nowhere…. The war can continue for 100 years, but we will fight to the end.”