Rebels Reportedly Becoming More Active

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 27

Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 4 that the “armed formations of the separatists” have become noticeably more active in recent days, with armed clashes between the rebels and security forces taking place in Chechnya’s mountains and foothills. “In Chechnya, rumors are actively being spread that in the coming months the militants may launch a series of large-scale offensive actions for the purpose of demonstrating their real capabilities,” the website wrote. “Some time ago, information appeared that the separatist leader Dokka Umarov demanded that members of the republic’s law-enforcement bodies quit their jobs, promising ‘amnesty’ in exchange.” Kavkazky Uzel quoted a Grozny resident, identified only as Sakhab, as saying: “Several weeks ago, leaflets with an appeal from Dokka Umarov to the employees of the police force were found in various places. Apparently, they said that those policemen who do not quit their jobs soon will be destroyed. Those who ‘come to their senses’ were promised amnesty.”

The website quoted an anonymous Chechen Interior Ministry officer as saying: “The recently noted activation of the gang formations is connected to the fact that the latest ‘tranche’ from the terrorists’ foreign sponsors was received by Umarov not long ago. So the gang formations are trying to work off that money. We have information that earlier, on Umarov’s orders, several hundred sets of police and military uniforms were purchased. It cannot be ruled out that the bandits will carry out a series of terrorist sorties while impersonating members of law-enforcement bodies. There have already been several cases in which unknown armed persons have set up checkpoints on motorways in the foothills and mountains and conducted motor transport checks.”

Kavkazky Uzel reported that another sign of the seriousness of the situation in the republic is the fact that in recent months, there have been cases of young people heading to the mountains to join the rebels. “Despite the fact that the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said that these cases are strictly isolated in nature, it is being said in the republic that dozens and hundreds of young people have recently joined the militants.”

In February of this year, Arkady Yedelev, head of the Regional Operations Headquarters for the Anti-Terrorist Operation in the North Caucasus, said that there were only 450 militants in Chechnya, but warned that that this number could grow if “foreign centers once again provide money to sabotage Russia” (Chechnya Weekly, February 15).

In May, the mufti of the Chechen Republic, Sultan Mirzaev, admitted that some young people in Chechnya had been heading to the mountains to join the rebels (Chechnya Weekly, May 24). In June, the federal Prosecutor-General’s Office posted an item on its website reporting that there was a growing problem in Chechnya of law enforcement officers joining “illegal armed groups” (Chechnya Weekly, June 14).

Several days after that item appeared on the federal Prosecutor-General’s Office website, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov denied that Chechen policemen and youth are switching to the side of the rebels. “The rumors about policemen and young men going to the mountains are deliberately being spread in Chechnya to create an atmosphere of insecurity,” Kadyrov said during the opening ceremony of a new sports club and mosque (Chechnya Weekly, June 21).

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov echoed Kadyrov’s denial on June 28, calling reports of Interior Ministry employees joining the ranks of “illegal armed formations” provocative and aimed at discrediting the police. “We stress, with full responsibility, that there is not a single Chechen Interior Ministry employee among the remaining militants,” Alkhanov said. “On my orders, the internal affairs directorate of the MVD of the Chechen Republic carefully checked this information. It [the verification] concerned practically the entire staff. All the employees are on the job performing their duties. No cases of police going over to the ranks of the NVFs [illegal armed formations] were uncovered.”

Alkhanov added: “The Chechen Interior Ministry has detailed information on those who have joined illegal armed formations over the past 18 months. They total about 30. Most of them are teenagers. They were tricked by recruiters. They warned them ahead of the call-up [conscription into the Russian army] that they would be sent to serve outside Chechnya, where they would be bullied. The agitators told the young people they could return home after two or three months and ask for amnesty, and as former rebels, they would be exempt from the draft.” Alkhanov said that the total number of rebels and rebel collaborators fluctuates between 200 and 250.