Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 202

At least eight people were killed yesterday when a bomb exploded in the Chechen village of Chiri-Yurt, located thirty kilometers south of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital. The Interfax news agency quoted unnamed law enforcement officials as saying that the blast took place in the afternoon, when the cafe was crowded. One woman–the owner of the cafe–and seven Russian servicemen were reportedly among the dead. Five servicemen were wounded. A representative for Movladi Udugov, the former Chechen foreign minister who is now a leader of the Chechen resistance’s radical wing, quoted Udugov as taking responsibility for the blast. The seven Russian servicemen who died in the blast were members of a SOBR–special police rapid-reaction force–unit from Primorsky krai in Russia’s Far East. Primorsky Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko said that the families of the dead servicemen would be given material support. Also yesterday, rail traffic was cut off between the Chechen village of Kadi-Yurt and the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt after police discovered two antitank mines with timing mechanisms and a 127 mm artillery shell on the tracks. According to the North Caucasus section of the Interior Ministry, the explosive devices were safely defused, after which the rail line was re-opened. The federal forces yesterday discovered and defused a total of eight powerful explosive devices in Chechnya’s Naursky region and along the border with Dagestan. In Gudermes, an antitank mine was found on a rail line near the town’s railway station and defused (Reuters, October 29; Russian agencies, October 29-30).

The Russian military, meanwhile, reported that Chechen rebel fighters fired on Russian military units yesterday in seventeen separate incidents around the breakaway republic, killing four Russian servicemen and wounding three. In the Chechen capital, rebels fired on the headquarters of the Russian military command, a unit of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and military checkpoints in three districts. No one was killed or injured in those attacks. Three people were wounded, however, when a radio-controlled mine went off at a Russian military checkpoint in the capital’s Staropromyslovsky district.

Only last week, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview that “organized resistance” in Chechnya had been “crushed,” that only four or five rebel groups remained and that “no large-scale military actions” were taking place in the breakaway republic (see the Monitor, October 27). Indeed, the Kremlin is moving forward as if the rebellion in Chechnya were essentially over. For example, a Russian government commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko has drawn up a program for rebuilding the Chechen economy and re-integrating it into the Russian economy. According Viktor Krakhmalya, deputy presidential representative to the southern federal district, one of the program’s main priorities is rebuilding the Kavkaz highway and other roads in Chechnya. Krakhmalya said the program will cost some 50 billion rubles (approximately US$1.8 billion) over a period of two to four years, and that 4.5 billion rubles (approximately US$160 million) will be earmarked for the program in the 2001 federal budget. Krakhmalya also said that the Rosneft state oil company would be in charge of rebuilding Chechnya’s oil industry and that the republic’s new police force would consist of 2,200 men. Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s provisional administration, wants a 5,000-man police force for the republic (Russian agencies, October 30).

The issue of funds to rebuild Chechnya has sparked controversy in the past. After the first military campaign, which lasted from 1994 to 1996, hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for Chechen reconstruction allegedly disappeared. Bislan Gantemirov, whom Moscow had installed as mayor of the Chechen capital, was later jailed for embezzling Chechen reconstruction funds. Gantemirov was recently again appointed to be the capital’s mayor (see the Monitor, October 19). Some Russian media also alleged that certain leading commercial banks which had been authorized to hold and disburse federal money for Chechen reconstruction misused these funds.