Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 5

The situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus was among the subjects that President Vladimir Putin addressed during his January 31 Kremlin press conference. “I think that it is possible to talk about the end of the counter-terrorist operation since Chechnya’s law enforcement agencies will, in practice, take upon themselves the basic responsibility for law enforcement in the Republic,” the Kremlin’s website quoted Putin as saying in answer to a question from a Chechen newspaper reporter about whether the military operation in Chechnya could be considered over. “All bodies of state power have been created in the Chechen Republic; I have already spoken about this and you are well aware of it. This means that the law enforcement agencies can and will get stronger—the office of the public prosecutor, courts, lawyers, notaries and, of course, the Interior Ministry of the Chechen Republic. In the aggregate, I hope, I am confident, that all of this together will result in further stabilization.”

Putin continued: “Today there are other regions in the North Caucasus where the situation is even more worrying than it is in Chechnya. I must say that the law enforcement agencies in the Chechen Republic are supervising the situation more and more rigidly and are taking more responsibility upon themselves. More than anything, fortunately or unfortunately, they often work more effectively than the federal forces do and have a responsible approach towards resolving problems.” The Russian president added: “We understand, and I would like to draw this to your attention and that of your colleagues, that within the bodies of the Chechen Interior Ministry there are a great many people who just recently were using weapons to fight against the federal forces. It is a complex and painful process both for the Federation as a whole and for the Chechen Republic. But I think that, despite negative moments that occur in this process, it is overall a positive one. If people consciously understand that they can defend the interests of their people only together with Russia, and do this honestly, openly, and lose anything in this process, including their own life, then this deserves only support and respect. And we shall provide this.” Chechnya’s law enforcement system, Putin said, “knows the local customs and conditions, and can therefore react to what happens in a more sensitive way, and often prove more effective than federal forces. This represents a positive moment and I think that if things proceed further along these lines than we are right to speak of ending antiterrorist operations in the Chechen Republic.”

Concerning Chechnya and the North Caucasus, Putin said there was one other issue he wanted to talk about separately. “Attracting people from different political backgrounds into Chechnya’s law enforcement system is a positive thing. But we must take into account the fact that for more than ten years nobody has worked on developing these law enforcement agencies. There must be a legal culture, respect for laws and, more importantly, the desire to observe the laws among the employees who now work in the law enforcement agencies. We need to do serious work to improve the professional skills of those people who are now coming to work in the law enforcement agencies. We are all going to work on this together.”