November 3 marked the 200th day since the Russian government formally ended the “counter-terrorist” operation it launched in Chechnya in September 1999, and statistics collected by the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website show that more blood has been spilled since the April 16 announcement of the operation’s end than during the 200 days leading up to it.
According to the website, 208 people were killed and 157 wounded in Chechnya between April 16 and November 3, and particularly noteworthy was the rebels’ revival of the use of suicide bombers. During that 200 day period, there were at least 92 shootouts between the rebels and security forces, in which reportedly 120 rebels were killed, 110 were captured and six surrendered. By way of comparison, in the 200 days before the counter-terrorist operation regime in Chechnya was lifted, there were 42 shootouts in which 32 rebels were killed, 87 were captured and 13 surrendered.
Kavkazsky Uzel noted that relatives of slain rebels are forbidden from burying them in the republic’s cemeteries or holding wakes for them. “The friends and family of members of the armed resistance, like the militants themselves, have effectively been declared outside the law in Chechnya,” an anonymous activist with a Chechen human rights organization told the website, adding “They can be killed, their houses can be set on fire; they can be abducted, detained, beaten and tortured.” As the website noted, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has frequently said that not only should the parents and relatives of militants be held responsible for their actions, but also their entire teip (clan).
On the other side of the ledger, at least 71 members of the police and other security forces in Chechnya were killed and 144 wounded in shootouts during the 200 days between April 16 and November 3. During the 200 days before the counter-terrorism operation in the republic was formally ended, 20 members of the Chechen police and other security forces were killed and 75 wounded.
At least 29 Chechen civilians were abducted and 17 murdered in the 200 days after the counter-terrorism operation in the republic was formally ended. In the 200 days before it was ended, seven civilians were abducted and six were murdered. Kavkazsky Uzel noted that the figures on the number of abductions and murders of civilians in Chechnya were not exact because the Memorial human rights group, which had been tracking such incidents, ceased its operations in Chechnya following the July 15 murder of its Grozny-based activist, Natalya Estemirova.
Since April 16, 32 civilians were wounded in terrorist bombings and shootouts in Chechnya. In the 200 days prior to April 16, 12 civilians were wounded in terrorist bombings and shootouts in the republic. According to Kavkazsky Uzel’s count, there have been 48 bombings and other terrorist acts in Chechnya since April 16, compared with 28 such incidents in the 200 days leading up to the cancellation of the counter-terrorist operation. Moreover, there have been ten suicide bombings and one thwarted suicide bombing in Chechnya since April 16, while there were no suicide bombings during the previous 200 days (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 3).
Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov offered his own statistics this week, declaring during a meeting in Grozny of republican law enforcement chiefs and Chechen interior ministry special forces commanders on November 2 that 144 members of “illegal armed formations” had been killed as a result of counter-insurgency operations the North Caucasus since April 20 of this year, and that 118 of them were killed in Chechnya (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 3).
However, Kavkazsky Uzel noted: “Representatives of local non-governmental organizations, for their part, believe that far from all those killed in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan or North Ossetia during that period were members of the armed underground. In the opinion of human rights activists, it is still not uncommon in the region for siloviki to pass off as members of the armed resistance people who in fact have nothing to do with them” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 3).
Kadyrov, meanwhile, told the republican law enforcement chiefs and Chechen interior ministry special forces commanders assembled on November 2 that they should focus on searching for and capturing rebel leaders or killing them if they resist capture. In what may have been an expression of impatience with the republic’s siloviki, Kadyrov said that the results of the fight against the “remnants” of the rebels have been impressive but that this fight “cannot go on endlessly.” He said that the “bandit ringleaders” must be tracked down and eliminated in order to stop young people from “going to the mountains” –that is, joining the rebels (Interfax, November 2).
In what may be in part a sign of the degree of alarm that the deteriorating security situation in the North Caucasus is causing in Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on October 29 that the military plans to create a new operational command on the basis of the 58th army deployed in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, which will consist of seven mechanized infantry brigades and one tank brigade. According to the newspaper, this means that the number of military units operating in the North Caucasus Military District will increase substantially (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 29).