Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 28

In an article titled “Fallings Out after a Pogrom,” which appeared in the no. 29 (July 17-23) issue of Moskovskie Novosti, leading independent military journalist Pavel Felgenhauer focused on relations between the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Ministry of Defense based in Chechnya, and on the current strained relationship of both these organizations with the pro-Moscow Chechen administration of Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov. Discussing the “mopping up operations” conducted by the MVD earlier this month in the villages of Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk, Felgenhauer wrote: “In the words of Akhmad Kadyrov, the forces robbed everything in a school and hospital and ‘mocked peaceful people and humiliated and robbed them.'” At first, the journalist continued, Kadyrov was “unexpectedly” supported by the acting commander of the Combined Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, army general Vladimir Moltenskoi, who termed the MVD’s actions “widescale crimes and complete anarchy.”

Shortly after issuing this statement, Felgenhauer noted, Moltenskoi was forced to issue a second statement that watered down his original complaint. “Moltenskoi,” Felgenhauer observed, “is an army lieutenant general who formally is counted as the commander of the Combined Group of Forces, but the forces of the MVD are de facto not subordinated to him, especially in light of the fact that, during the time of the latest mopping up operations in Chechnya, the deputy minister of internal affairs, Colonel General Aleksandr Chekalin, was present, and he is much higher in rank [than Moltenskoi].” “In Chechnya itself,” Felgenhauer continued, “the army and the MVD may not like one another, but in Moscow, among their ministries, there are no special disagreements concerning how to pacify Chechnya. Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov immediately declared his public support for Minister of Internal Affairs Boris Gryzlov.”

In point of fact, Felgenhauer summed up, there is little real difference within Chechnya in the conduct of the personnel of these two power ministries: “Today the forces of the MVD have been publicly accused of barbaric acts and marauding, but human rights defenders and journalists have collected sufficient information in Chechnya to demonstrate that the [regular] army, the paratroopers and so on are no better. The complete impunity of the military leaders is leading to the moral decay of their subordinates.” Objectively, Felgenhauer concluded, the war in Chechnya is serving to destroy “both the armed forces and the [Russian] state.”