Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 30

In an article entitled “Putin Has Introduced Military Rule into Chechnya,” written by journalist Vladimir Georgiev for the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta (October 9 issue), it was reported that, as of October 8, a new administrative system had gone into effect in Chechnya. A signed decree by President Putin mandated that henceforth all decisions taken by the chief military commandant of Chechnya, Sergei Kizyun, “will be obligatory for the [pro-Moscow] civilian structures and the populace. In essence, the issue concerns the introduction of military rule.” The chief of the military General Staff, General Anatoly Kvashnin, Georgiev noted, had proposed precisely such an arrangement to Vladimir Putin a month previously. On September 10, Georgiev recalled, Kvashnin had visited Chechnya and had conducted a meeting with the civilian heads of district administrations and with the military commandants of the republic. During this meeting, Kvashnin had employed a Soviet-era metaphor to convey the structural changes he had in mind: “The commandants in the districts,” he declared, “will be the first [communist party] secretaries of the district committees [the raikomy], while the heads of the [civilian] administration will be the chairmen of the city executive committees [the gorispolkomy].” The pro-Moscow civilian leadership of Chechnya would henceforth be directly subordinate to the Russian military leadership. So, too, would be “local departments of the MVD, the FSB, and other special forces.”

One result of the new structure, Georgiev underscored, was that “the military will realize control over the financial flows coming from Moscow to Chechnya. At present, the military believe, money earmarked by the government of the Russian Federation for the restoration of the socio-economic sphere of the republic does not reach its destination.” However, the reporter proceeded to note, “it is fully understood that military authority is being reborn in Chechnya not only to control financial flows. In essence, a war has not ceased going on here.” Explicitly putting the military back in control of Chechnya served to underline that key fact.

In a statement carried by the official website of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, Chechenskaya Respublika (October 9 issue), the chief military commandant of Chechnya, Sergei Kizyun, underlined that the commandants’ offices in the republic would henceforth be responsible for “prophylactic, organizational and educational” work aimed at cutting off terrorist activity in the republic and would also engage in propaganda work aimed “at the broad layers of the populace.” The military commandants’ offices were also now empowered “more clearly and broadly to interact with the organs of local self-rule and also with the units and forces of the [pro-Moscow] Chechen police.” The commandants’ offices, he said, would be offering “targeted assistance to the organs of internal affairs and structures of power.” Kizyun noted that in the future the military commandants’ offices will also carry out “control, observation and permission functions” on the roads of Chechnya in order to bolster transportation security. The chief military commandant of Chechnya, Kizyun pointed out with obvious pride, “is now named to his post and freed from it directly by the President of the Russian Federation and is subordinate [only] to the head of the operational headquarters for the administration of counter-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus.”

On October 11, in an article bearing the sub-title “A Chechen Military District May Appear in Chechnya,” Izvestia reported that a new separate military procuracy was being formed to serve the specific needs of the Combined Group of Russian Forces based in the Chechen Republic. Previously the procuracy of the North Caucasus Military District had exercised oversight over Russian forces based in Chechnya.

On October 10, the website reported that the State Duma was poised, perhaps on the following day, to consider a law submitted by the president concerning the temporary organs of power in Chechnya. “It had lain on the shelf for two years and the fact that they have now remembered it does not bode well for Akhmad Kadyrov-someone in Moscow is stubbornly postponing the date of his election as president of Chechnya.” At the same time that Kadyrov had been named acting head of the Chechen administration, in June of 2000, recalled, Putin had signed a decree entitled “Concerning the Organization of a Temporary System for the Organs of Executive Authority in the Chechen Republic,” which he had submitted to the State Duma. In the text of this draft law, draconian limitations had been placed on the rights of the residents of Chechnya: “The draft law contains such norms as: ‘a special regime for entry and departure,’ ‘limitation of freedom of movement about the territory of the Chechen Republic and territories adjacent to it,’ ‘a prohibition on conducting gatherings, meetings and street processions,’ ‘the introduction of a curfew,’ ‘the limiting of freedom of the press by means of the introduction of preliminary censorship,’ ‘the halting of the activity of political parties,’ ‘the examination of residences’ and so forth.” The draft law, the website discovered, had been removed from the shelf where it had been gathering dust with blinding speed. “Last week it was unexpectedly included in the agenda [of the State Duma]…” The representation of the Kadyrov administration in Moscow had not even been informed that the draft was about to be considered by the Duma.

What is the likely meaning of these recent developments? The Russian military, with the blessing of President Putin, now seems to be in a position more or less to dictate its will within Chechnya. The pro-Moscow administration of Akhmad Kadyrov is to be structurally subordinate to the Russian military as are the pro-Moscow Chechen police. These two developments could well signify the end of “Chechenization.” The military will now also be able to rule the roost in Chechnya vis-à-vis its bureaucratic rivals: the Russian FSB and MVD. Even control over movement on the roads of the republic-which has largely been under the control of the MVD-will now be under the supervision of the military.

Last but far from least, the Russian military now has a chance to mine the mother lode of the so-called Chechen Klondike. Financial flows from Moscow into Chechnya will now be monitored and, at least to some extent, controlled by the military, which will want, at a minimum, to take a massive cut out of whatever funds are successfully extracted from the Russian bureaucracy in Moscow “for Chechnya.” As a footnote, it might be remarked that a “special investigation” appearing in the October 11 issue of Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported: “Far from stamping down on the [illegal] oil trade [in Chechnya], the Russian military and pro-Moscow police are actively colluding in it. In what is supposedly one of the most heavily policed and guarded regions in the world, every day long convoys of trucks carry the oil cargo out of the republic unimpeded.”

The civilian populace of Chechnya will likely feel the most devastating effect of Putin’s new directive. The directive, as well as the above-discussed draft Duma law, will permit the military to intrude into all aspects of Chechen life, violating, for example, the sanctity of the home and of the mosque. One can quite safely predict that those military procurators who are to be directly attached to the Combined Group of Forces will choose not to notice ethical missteps by future Colonel Budanovs. One can understand, therefore, why Putin’s spokesman, Yastrzhembsky, felt moved this past week to predict that the Chechen conflict will continue for decades. The chances for a negotiated settlement to the present vicious guerilla war now seem to be about nil.