The newspaper Novye Izvestia reported on February 15 that, while it has been announced that the number of checkpoints in Chechnya are to be reduced, there remain as of today far too many of them: “The number of checkpoints in recent times,” it was reported, “has been increased to 147, even though the command of the Federal Group is well informed about their small degree of effectiveness.” Some travelers about the republic are stopped twenty to thirty times a day at checkpoints where they must present their internal passports and driver’s documents. A Russian general recently complained that the counterterrorist operation was being dragged out because a part of the populace was helping the rebels. “Perhaps he was right,” the account continued, “There does exist sympathy for the rebels, although there are few of them [separatist fighters]. However, there are more people dissatisfied today with the actions of the [Russian] military than there were two years ago, and one can understand the feelings of the people. If the American army and their allies had set up checkpoints all over Afghanistan… extorting from the populace their last pennies, beating and humiliating them at every step, then the present operation would very rapidly have ended in a fiasco.”
Writing in the February 15 Nezavisimaya Gazeta, journalist Il’ya Maksakov observed: “For [Aslan] Maskhadov, each new mopping up operation [by the federal forces] is a gift inasmuch as after them the ranks of rebels fill up with new forces…who then act exclusively out of revenge.” Maksakov also noted that the separatists “not without joy” are drawing attention to the approach of spring and of the so-called “green season” in Chechnya.
In the no. 7 (February 14) issue of the weekly Obshchaya Gazeta, journalist Bakhtiyar Akhmedkhanov recounted his impressions from a recent trip made by car throughout much of Chechnya. “According to information coming from the Chechen [separatist] side,” he wrote, “during the mopping up operations and other special operations conducted over the past month 1,000 peaceful residents have been killed or disappeared without trace. To check this sinister figure is very difficult, but they are indeed killing people here every day.” Describing a recent federal mopping-up operation in Starye Atagi, a pro-Moscow Chechen policeman informed Akhmedkhanov: “Some 300 people passed through an improvised filter they set up in a mill in Starye Atagi. Approximately as many were filtered in Tsotson-Yurt, which is located not far away.” One could buy one’s way out of the filtration process, he added, by paying 1,000 rubles a person.