Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 7

Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov declared on February 10 that all rebel “armed formations” in the republic have been destroyed and that peace has arrived, Kavkazky Uzel reported on February 12. According to the website, Kadyrov said that the main credit for these achievements should go to the federal center for its decision to hand over responsibility for security in Chechnya to the republic’s pro-Moscow administration. “When they entrusted us with resolving security issues, there were many critics,” Kadyrov said. “But time has shown that this was an exceptionally correct decision, and thanks to the fact that the Chechens themselves were entrusted with the issue of their own security, it was possible to achieve a resolution of the problem in a short period.” Kadyrov added: “I state with full responsibility that the underground gang in Chechnya has been decapitated; the illegal armed formations have been completely eliminated. Peace in the Chechen Republic has come once and for all, unalterably and for good.” Kavkazky Uzel noted that the Russian military command in Chechnya had recently said that some 450 rebels were operating in the republic.

Interestingly, Kadyrov’s words were echoed one day later by Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s defense minister and deputy prime minister. “I think that we have managed to achieve a success in Chechnya, the problem is solved,” Newsru.com quoted him as saying on February 11 at the 43rd annual Munich Conference on Security Policy. “Five years were needed. A small territory, if you compare it with Afghanistan and with Iraq. We learned lessons. We carried out elections in Chechnya.”

Ivanov further claimed that what Moscow was fighting against in Chechnya was “international terrorism,” not “local terrorism,” because “local terrorism now, in the global world, simply doesn’t exist.” He also said that Russia uses “world standards” in defining terrorists. “If you threaten, if you carry weapons [and] explosives, if you carry out terrorist attacks, you’re a terrorist,” he said. “If you march freely and say: ‘Give Chechnya independence!’ …there’s no problem; go ahead, march.”

Ivanov also noted that President Vladimir Putin, who also attended the Munich conference, had talked about Chechnya the previous day. According to the transcript of Putin’s speech in Munich on February 10 and the Q&A that followed, the Russian president said that “a parliament and a president have been elected, and that the government is functioning” in Chechnya, that “[a]ll the bodies of authority and administration have been formed,” and that “[p]ractically all the political forces in Chechnya have been involved in the work” of the republic.” By way of example, Putin said that “the former Defense Minister of Aslan Maskhadov’s government is now a member of parliament in Chechnya” – an apparent reference to Magomed Khambiev. As Prague Watchdog reported last August 23, law-enforcement officials under Ramzan Kadyrov’s command seized several dozen of Khambiev’s close relatives in March 2004, proposing that in exchange for their lives he surrender to the authorities, which he did a short time later.

Referring to the amnesty announced by Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev last year, Putin said his government had “made a whole series of decisions that would allow former insurgents to return not only to normal life, but also to the republic’s political activities.” He added: “As such, today we prefer to act by using economic and political means and, in practice, we have transferred the responsibility for ensuring security almost 100 percent to the Chechen people. The agencies of law and order that were formed in Chechnya are almost 100 percent composed of local citizens, from those living in Chechnya on a permanent basis – from Chechens.”

On February 12, at a meeting of the heads of local law enforcement bodies that was also attended by Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, Chechnya’s commandant, Andrei Krivonos, noted that four military servicemen, two Chechen Interior Ministry officers and a local civilian had been killed in Chechnya since the beginning of the year, with six rebels killed and 11 captured during the same period. “In all, seven explosions, two shootings and six armed clashes have been registered since the beginning of the year,” RIA Novosti quoted Krivonos as saying. He added that three militant bases and 14 arms caches were destroyed.

Krivonos’ statistics for the number of servicemen killed in action (KIA) since the beginning of the year were lower than the KIAs reported by Russian and international media. Interfax reported on January 29 that four members of the pro-Moscow Vostok battalion were killed in a rebel ambush near Azamat-Yurt, near Chechnya’s administrative border with Dagestan, while Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service reported that two Russian servicemen and one Chechen militant were killed that same day in a separate shooting in Chechnya’s mountainous Shatoi region (Chechnya Weekly, February 1). Interfax and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian-language website, Svobodanews.ru, reported on February 5 and 6 that two Russian servicemen were reportedly killed and three were wounded in a shootout with militants in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district and that a suspected rebel and a Chechen Interior Ministry officer were killed during a shootout in Chechnya’s Shelkovskoi district (Chechnya Weekly, February 8). On February 13, one day after Krivonos gave his tally, Reuters reported that two Russian soldiers and four separatist rebels had died that day in a gun battle near Gudermes, Ramzan Kadyrov’s hometown.

In addition, Chechnya’s Interior Ministry launched a large-scale operation aimed at tracking down policemen driving stolen cars. The operation was reportedly part of a wider purge of the law-enforcement bodies prompted, according to some observers, by concerns about links between law-enforcement officials and rebels. Novye izvestia, on February 13, quoted Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center as saying: “People who came down from the mountains took jobs in the law-enforcement bodies. Many of these people did not break with the past and now, as before, have ties to the militants. It does not suit all of the republic’s residents that these people still go around with weapons, but now dressed in epaulettes. Since the most recent amnesty, there are too many of these people in the law-enforcement bodies. In all probability, their number in the [law-enforcement] organs will be reduced.” Novye izvestia quoted the Chechen Interior Ministry’s press service as saying that the police chiefs of three of Chechnya’s mountainous districts – Shatoi, Sharoi and Itum-Kale – where an upswing in rebel activity has been evident, have been removed from their posts since the start of the year.