Naidenov also brought back from Grozny some revealing comments on the degree of “normalization” in that city. The city’s streets are still deserted after dark, except for the brand new vehicles, with no license plates or other identifying marks, that roam freely. When people see or hear them they say that “the Kadyrovites are on the road” and try to avoid them at all costs.
“Even the federal forces stop checking documents toward evening,” wrote Naidenov. “There are no fewer than seven checkpoints along the road from Grozny to Gudermes. When we drove that route during the day, we were stopped at each one. Coming back, we were not stopped once. Grozny residents joke that this must mean that the guerrillas don’t go out at night, they’re just asleep like everyone else.”
Grozny itself is filled with armed men–“one can only guess what structure they belong to, if any. They don’t wear any identifying symbols, and it’s best not to ask them to show their police badges.”