Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 15

Some Russian media have speculated that the rebels killed in the Grozny shootout were in the Chechen capital to carry out attacks timed to coincide with the May 9 Victory Day holiday. This follows press reports earlier this month that Russia’s special services, on the basis of information gathered from captured rebel fighters and the discovery of a large number of arms caches, had concluded that rebel warlord Shamil Basaev had ordered large-scale attacks to coincide with the May 9 celebrations. Chechen prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko said on March 13 that the republic’s law-enforcement agencies were taking additional security measures in connection with information that the rebels were planning to ratchet up attacks during the spring/summer period. For his part, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said in an interview published in Komsomolskaya pravda on April 6 that he and his forces had set themselves the goal of killing Basaev before May 9, the first anniversary of the assassination of his father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Back in February, the younger Kadyrov gave his “word of honor” during an interview with Moskovsky komsomolets that he would kill Basaev, calling the rebel field commander “my natural enemy” and “a beast” who “must be buried three meters underground.”

On April 14, Kadyrov told journalists in Gudermes that his presidential security service and Chechen law-enforcement organs were “close on the heels” of Basaev and had even seized his personal weapon and his German-made artificial leg. (Kadyrov was quoted as saying that Basaev’s prosthetic device had been given to an invalid, but gazeta.ru reported that Kadyrov’s press-service subsequently denied he had given the artificial limb away.)

Whatever the case, the kadyrovtsy and other pro-Moscow security forces have apparently stepped up their operations against the rebels. Russian media reported on April 18 that a force under Kadyrov’s command numbering some 2,000 men was carrying out an operation against rebels in the mountains of the republic’s Vedeno district. Russian military spokesman Ilya Shabalkin reported on April 19 that federal forces had found and destroyed a rebel base near Dyshne-Vedeno – which is Shamil Basaev’s home village – killing several rebels. “I do not rule out that Basaev himself could have visited the base from time to time,” Interfax quoted Shabalkin as saying. “The medical and security equipment found at the base and the mines discovered on all the roads leading to it indicate that the base could have served as a hide-out for major guerilla leaders,” he added.

A Russian military source told RIA Novosti on April 18 that a fighter belonging to the group headed by rebel field commander Magomed Baisultanov, who is directly subordinated to Shamil Basaev, had been captured the previous day in the village of Avtury. The rebel had reportedly shot a resident of the village of Achkoi-Martan to death in order to intimidate other villagers. Also on April 17, a rebel loyal to Dagestani rebel field commander Rabbani Khalilov reportedly surrendered to Chechen police.

The separatist Chechenpress news agency, meanwhile, claimed that rebel fighters killed two pro-Moscow Chechen policemen and injured three in an attack on a UAZ microbus in Grozny on April 18. It also claimed that one FSB officer and two others were killed in an attack on Zhiguli automobile in the Achkoi-Martan district’s town center on April 16.