Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 39

Chechnya’s new law on firearms, passed by parliament last November, came into effect on February 25. It bans the carrying of automatic weapons without the express permission of the civil and military authorities. It does not yet extend to pistols and knives. (Izvestia, February 26)

This is not the first time the Chechen government has tried to enforce such controls. About six months ago, President Aslan Maskhadov issued a decree disbanding all armed detachments that did not become part of Chechnya’s regular army. The decree was ignored. The most flagrant violation is the continued operation of the "Army of General Dudaev," whose fighters obey only their leader, Salman Raduev. This group, it should be noted, is not Chechnya’s only autonomous armed unit. Also notorious is the detachment of the Jordanian-born Chechen, Emir Khattab, whom Moscow accuses of raiding the Russian military unit in the Dagestani city of Buinaksk last December and of training people to commit terrorist acts in Dagestan. There are many smaller autonomous armed groups, many of which are criminal in nature.

It would be delusion to believe that these rogue field commanders will willingly obey the firearms law. Grozny cannot enforce it today (at least with respect to the larger bands): It would inevitably lead to what the Chechen authorities fear most — internecine war.

Chechen Leadership Reluctant to Criticize Raduev.