Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 10

As of January 13, the Russian military began imposing a new policy under which Chechen males aged 10 to 60 are not allowed outside the borders of the breakaway republic. In justifying the policy, Russian military officials argue that the Chechen rebels are hiding their fighters among the refugees leaving the republic. Ruslan Aushev, president of the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, strongly criticized the policy, saying that it not only violates the norms of a “democratic, civilized” society, but that it also violates Russia’s antiterrorism law. Aushev accused General Viktor Kazantsev, the commander of military operations in Chechnya, of–in effect–having accused all Chechen males between the ages of 10 and 60 of being terrorists. “There has never been anything like this, even in the time of Stalin, when the Chechens were deported,” Aushev said. The Ingushetian president said that more than 2,000 refugees had left Chechnya during the previous twenty-four hours and that the total number of refugees from Chechnya had already exceeded Ingushetia’s own population (NTV, RTR, ORT, Russian agencies, January 13).

The Russian military’s decision is indeed unprecedented. In essence, it is an open declaration that the entire male population of Chechnya, with the exception of very young children and very old men, is made up of potential fighters. Moscow seems to have decided that its attempts to win Chechens over to its side have failed, and that it is essentially in a war with the Chechen people as a whole.

There is little doubt that this move will simply strengthen the West’s negative assessment of the Kremlin’s actions in Chechnya (see previous story). On January 13, the U.S. based group Human Rights Watch called the move “fundamentally unacceptable” (Associated Press, January 13). Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews, whose country at the moment is chairing the Council of Europe, said during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that he considered the Kremlin’s actions in Chechnya unacceptable. A delegation from the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly is set to arrive in Moscow on January 17 for talks concerning the problems with the breakaway republic. The assembly warned last December that it will end its participation in projects with Russia if Moscow continues to violate human rights in Chechnya (Radio Liberty, January 13).