The January 18 issue of the weekly Obshchaya gazeta carried an informative report by journalist Bakhtiyar Akhmedkhanov, who recently spent time with both the Russian military and the Chechen separatists in Chechnya. A Russian officer told the journalist that even if the federal forces succeeded in killing or capturing Maskhadov, Basaev and Khattab, it would mean little. “The war unfortunately would not end.” In point of fact, he asked, is Russia not warring with the entire Chechen people?
As for the rebels (boeviki), Akhmedkhanov writes, “they are presently acting in mobile groups of from three to fifteen men. Most of them sit at home and take up arms only on command.” The separatists receive financing from abroad brought in to them by couriers “not through Georgia… but through neighboring Russian regions.” Despite opinions to the contrary, the rebels have succeeded in preserving a single system of administration and a single leadership. “Judging from everything, Maskhadov remains in command.” In Chechnya, the journalist observed, a strict balance has been established: “The night and the forest belong to the rebels; 70 percent of the day and the command posts belong to the federals.”
Everyone in Chechnya, including the Russian soldiers, mentioned to Akhmedkhanov that the Russian military are engaged in selling weapons and ammunition to the separatists. “One of the schemes goes like this: The rebels come to terms with the federals and pay them an advance. Then, after a certain time, the detachment or unit leaves, and the goods which have been paid for are left behind in an agreed-upon place.”