Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 14

By the time he held a meeting with FSB director Nikolai Patrushev and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in the Kremlin on May 6, however, Putin’s commitment to Chechenization was noticeably on the wane. The previous day, which had happened to be the Russian Orthodox Easter, Patrushev and Ivanov had conducted a meeting with the staff of the Combined Group of Russian Forces at Khankala military base located outside the Chechen capital. The two ministers had then conveyed to the president what they had learned during that meeting. In an article entitled “The FSB Has Not Finished Its Work in Chechnya,” the May 7 issue of Kommersant reported that Putin had decisively “halted the handover of the leadership of the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya from the FSB to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.” That handover “can now be expected no earlier than the spring of next year [2003].” “There can be several reasons for this decision,” Kommersant speculated. “First, recent battles in Grozny and in Vedeno, Argun and other districts of Chechnya–as a result of which several tens of soldiers and MVD personnel have been killed and wounded–showed that ‘the enemy is still strong’ and capable not only of one-time terrorist acts but also of large-scale onslaughts.”

“Second,” Kommersant continued, “the structure and staffing of the units of the MVD in Chechnya have not yet been completed…. Today, in the republic, there are in actuality only a few [pro-Moscow Chechen] forces capable of opposing the rebels: the Chechen UBOP [anti-organized crime unit], the OMON, which are informally controlled by Bislan Gantamirov, and the spetznaz detachment of the Yamadaev brothers. Last, Vladimir Putin does not want to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor, who in the first Chechen war undertook such a step prematurely.” For the time being, therefore, Kommersant concluded its report, Putin has given an order to the FSB “in the most decisive fashion, and by all possible means, to continue in Chechnya the struggle against those who do not want to be integrated into peaceful life.”