Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 110

On June 4, Russian General Gennady Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, called for public hangings of Chechen rebels. A few days earlier, he had said that he backed the idea of giving rewards for information leading to their capture (Russian agencies, June 4; see also the Chechnya Weekly, June 6).

Troshev’s comments can be seen as a sign of a morale problem. The fact that a Russian general made such a suggestion–one that would be unthinkable for a civilized society–is evidence that the Russian military fears that it is unable to defeat the Chechen rebels. Indeed, Troshev’s comment can be seen as an emotional expression of the Russia military leadership’s impotence. It should be recalled that the public executions carried out in 1997 by the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov served as excellent propaganda for Moscow, which, using the Russian media, put out the idea that it was impossible to negotiate with those who had established a “medieval regime” on Russian territory. Now Troshev wants to fight the Chechen separatists using those very same medieval methods. His comments bring another analogy to mind. The last time public executions were carried out on Russian soil was during the Second World War, when German troops used public executions in their campaign to wipe out the resistance. The fact that Troshev is attempting to copy the methods of the German occupation forces gives the lie to the Kremlin’s insistence that its military campaign in Chechnya is simply a “counterterrorist” operation.

All the same, General Troshev’s emotional outburst is understandable. Events have shown that Moscow is unable not only to destroy the Chechen rebel movement, but also even to reduce it in size and strength. Indeed, the rebels of late have stepped up their activities. Today, for example, someone detonated a radio-controlled mine as a Russian military column passed through the Oktyabr region of Djohar (Grozny), the Chechen capital, killing one Russian serviceman. On June 4, a large bomb went off in the Oktyabr region, killing a local resident. Meanwhile, two Chechens were detained today in the village of Gikalovsky, in the Groznensk region, while trying to plant a mine. Russian troops were fired on fourteen times during the last twenty-four hours and the Russian military command reported that its forces had destroyed two rebel military training camps in the Vedeno region (Radio Liberty, June 7).