MOSCOW SETS NEW PLANS FOR HANDLING CHECHNYA.
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 4
On January 22, President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced that Russia was switching the command of the “antiterrorist” operation in Chechnya from the military to the Federal Security Service (FSB). The director of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, Putin announced, would henceforth be in charge of the operation (Agence France Presse and Gazeta.ru, January 22).
On January 18, Putin had met with the Chechen head of administration, Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, and approved Kadyrov’s plan for the “normalization” of Chechnya and for the reduction of federal troops in the republic during calendar year 2001. Putin, Reuters reported, took this decision “hours after a top Western human rights envoy [Lord Frank Judd of the Council of Europe] urged Russia to scale down its forces and draft a recovery plan for Chechnya” (Reuters, January 18).
On the morning of January 19, Lieutenant General Valery Baranov, commander of the Combined Group of Federal Forces in Chechnya, had expressed himself “with great reserve” concerning this plan. “At the present time in Chechnya,” he remarked, “including in the mountain districts, the situation has noticeably stabilized, and the [Russian] forces are successfully resolving the tasks posed to them, about which the president of the country spoke…. If today’s balance of forces,” Baranov warned, “is infringed, then we will soon be confronted with an escalation of military activities” (Agentstvo voennykh novostei, January 19).
Later the same day, the chief Russian spokesman for issues relating to Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, in the name of the president, effectively overruled General Baranov’s strong objections. The military operation in Chechnya, Yastrzhembsky underlined, had de facto been completed “a rather long time ago,” with the destruction of large and mid-size separatist formations. In addition, the Forty-second Motor-Rifle Division of the Ministry of Defense (14,000-15,000 troops) will continue to be located in Chechnya on a permanent basis, as will a brigade of the Russian MVD internal forces (6,000-7,000 troops). The formation of an MVD of Chechnya (5,000-6,000 men) will also be speeded up (RIA novostei, January 19).
A report appearing in the January 19 issue of the online daily Gazeta.ru offered additional information concerning the new “Kadyrov plan.” The number of Ministry of Defense troops in Chechnya will be reduced from 60,000 to 15,000, while the leaders of the rebels are to be liquidated during the course of “special operations” mounted by the FSB, which will be assisted by Kadyrov’s people. New presidential elections will be held in Chechnya during 2002; until then, Kadyrov will be a full-fledged (and not acting) chief of administration. Before elections can be held, however, “a new constitution has to be written for the republic and order has to be introduced.”
In conjunction with the “Kadyrov plan,” Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Rushailo announced on January 19 that 130 pro-Moscow Chechen village police departments, consisting of approximately 5,800 men, will be formed on the territory of Chechnya before April 1, 2001. In the initial stage, up until February 1, police from other regions of Russia will be present to help provide training and support (RIA novostei, January 19).
On January 19, it was announced that Akhmad Kadyrov had appointed Stanislav Il’yasov the chairman of the newly formed government of Chechnya. From 1997-1999, Il’yasov headed up the government of adjacent Stavropol Krai (Lenta.ru, January 19).