September 1 marked the final, formal transition in the leadership of federal operations against the guerrillas in Chechnya from the FSB to the Interior Ministry. Nikolai Patrushev, head of the FSB, boasted a few days earlier that his agency and the other federal forces had made so much progress that “there are no longer any large formations of bandits, only small, dispersed groups.” As if in direct response to that statement, a rebel force estimated to number some fifty men (according to sources used by Nezavisimaya gazeta) burst into the home of a pro-Kadyrov Muslim cleric during the night of August 30-31. Shamkhan Madagov, mufti for the Vedeno district in the southern highlands, was shot dead in his own yard. Andrei Riskin wrote in the September 1 issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta that more than a hundred rebel fighters took part in the recent battles near Avtury.
Boris Gryzlov, the federal interior minister, stated that the staff directing federal operations in the republic will from now on be called the staff “for establishing constitutional order” in Chechnya, rather than for conducting a “counter-terrorist operation.” The new label is doubly Orwellian: It tacitly assumes that the rest of Russia is governed by the 1993 constitution, though in fact the federal and provincial authorities regularly and brazenly ignore that document–especially its human rights provisions.