Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 38

The area in and around Chechnya has the largest troop concentrations in Europe, according to an October 20 article by Vladimir Mukhin in Nezavisimaya gazeta. This article should be treated with caution, having clearly been written for the purpose of countering Akhmad Kadyrov’s calls for federal troop reductions so that he himself can take over all the pro-Moscow gunmen inside the republic’s borders. Nevertheless, it provides a telling picture of the sheer scale of Russia’s military effort in the region–an effort that the country’s overburdened populace can ill afford.

Mukhin usefully widened the focus to consider federal troops (including those of the Interior Ministry) deployed in the southern provinces neighboring Chechnya. These include, according to his analysis, “the 58th Army, which includes the 19th Motorized Rifle Division (in Vladikavkaz), the 42nd Division (in Chechnya), and the 20th Motorized Rifle Division (in Volgograd). In addition to these, there are deployed separate motorized rifle brigades in Budennovsk, Maikop and Buinaksk. In Novorossisk is concentrated the 7th Parachute Division, the 247th shock regiment of which is based directly in Stavropol. From the navy, the 77th Marine Brigade is deployed in Kaspinsk; from the main headquarters of the Russian Federation armed forces, a brigade of spetsnaz troops from the GRU (military intelligence) is deployed in Krasnodar.”

In sum, according to Mukhin, federal troops stationed in southern Russia come to “at least 300,000 servicemen, not including those of the interior ministry, of which there are also many. Almost one out of every two of the interior ministry’s 193,000 soldiers and officers is serving in the northern Caucasus. Of the ministry’s five divisions designated for military operations, four are deployed in Krasnodar, Pyatigorsk, Rostov and Novocherkassk. Brigades designated for military operations are located in the Kursk district of Stavropol krai (on the border with Chechnya), the Rostov oblast (in Kalach on the Don), Kabardino-Balkaria (Nalchik), and Dagestan (Makhachkala).”

Mukhin argued, convincingly, that the Russian troops are carrying such a large share of the burden of fighting the rebel guerrillas that they are irreplaceable. He also claimed, without any supporting detail, that Russian military commanders are in charge of distributing federal subsidies to Chechnya’s bureaucracy and civilian populace.