Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 15

On January 18, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on a system of executive organs for Chechnya which basically provides the republic’s administration with real power, not the vague authority which the head of provisional administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, had previously exercised. According to the decree, Kadyrov is now the republic’s highest official, and has the right to make decisions concerning the appointment and removal of other officials in the republic in conjunction with the presidential representative to the Southern federal district, who is now deputy head of the Chechen administration (Russian agencies, January 19). Immediately after Putin issued his decree on the Chechen leadership, Kadyrov, as he had earlier promised, appointed Stanislav Ilasov as head of the republic’s government (Russian agencies, January 19). Kadyrov also put forward his plan to regularize the situation in Chechnya, which calls creating a consultative organ under the republican administration made up of authoritative representatives of society and religious figures, which will have the task of preparing the normative legal basis necessary for Chechnya’s political-legal reintegration into the Russian Federation. Kadyrov also called for the start of work on a new constitution for the republic and said that the legal basis for carrying out local elections should be ready by December of this year. He said, however, that the elections themselves should be carried out no earlier than two years after the war in the republic is over (Nezavisimaya gazeta, January 19; ORT, January 21; see Chechnya Weekly, January 23).

During a meeting with Putin on January 18, Kadyrov–without citing specifics–asked the Russian president to withdraw “excess” troops from the republic. Putin agreed, and announced yesterday that he had ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from the region and was handing over control over the “counterterrorism operation” in Chechnya to Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev. Putin was quoted as saying that 15,000 regular soldiers and 7,000 Interior Ministry troops would remain in Chechnya on a permanent basis. His spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said that the military operation there would now focus on the “neutralization of the ringleaders of the bandit formations and their adherents” (Moscow Times, January 23).

On January 21, Kadyrov told the well-known television journalist Vladimir Pozner that he would seek to increase the number of policemen in Chechnya from 5,000 to 15,000. In response to Pozner’s skepticism concerning the loyalty of Chechnya’s policemen–he suggested they would end up working for the separatists–Kadyrov responded by saying that the republic’s future would be determined only by the Chechens themselves, who must recognize that the separatist cause is futile (ORT, January 21).

Events over the weekend, however, raised doubts over Kadyrov’s assurances. On January 21, the same day as his interview with Pozner, three separate gun battles between rebels and republican Interior Ministry and police forces broke out in Gudermes, the republic’s provisional capital. Rebel gunmen fired on policemen from the city’s main hospital, killing one of them. Almost simultaneously, a bomb exploded in a local cafe, wounding several people. Meanwhile gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint along the highway connecting Gudermes with the village of Dzhanka, wounding two soldiers. The battle between police and the gunmen in the city hospital continued for nearly eight hours, after which the gunmen used the cover of darkness to flee. While the Associated Press quoted an official in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration as saying that 14 soldiers died in the fighting in Gudermes, Yastrzhembsky denied the report, saying that five Chechen policemen were killed in shoot-out (Moscow Times, January 23; Russian agencies, January 21; see also Chechnya Weekly, January 23).