Official announcements about the reduction of federal troop strength in Chechnya have repeatedly turned out to be exaggerated, and apparently that pattern is continuing. Col. Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman attached to the Russian military headquarters for the northern Caucasus, said recently that Russian troops would be leaving Chechnya “as previously scheduled,” but failed to specify in what numbers.
Vladimir Mukhin reported on the issue in the October 28 issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta using his own analysis of publicly available information. According to the official version, a rotation of several parachute and spetsnaz regiments is supposed to take place on November 1. But according to his newspaper’s sources in the military, wrote Mukhin, “there is not going to be any reduction of the number of paratroopers in Chechnya; in fact, their term of service is being lengthened to a full year from the current six months. Also being lengthened is the term of service for the troops of the 104th parachute regiment of the 76th experimental division from Pskov, the Russian army’s first all-volunteer division. Originally it was planned to relieve the professional soldiers of this regiment in December 2003, but now it has been decided to postpone that step until February 2004.”