Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 230

While the blast in Alkhan-Yurt–if it was indeed the work of Chechen rebels–suggests that the rebels are increasingly resorting to indiscriminate terror, a number of observers continue to say that the conflict there has evolved into a protracted and ultimately unwinnable guerrilla war. Yevgeny Kiselev, host of “Itogi,” NTV television’s weekly news analysis program, said during yesterday’s broadcast that the conflict was like the one in Northern Ireland. “You can occupy the whole territory of Chechnya, bomb [its] small and large cities, remove Grozny [Djohar] from the face of the earth, destroy thousands of fighters, thousands of armed separatists, but the war will continue anyway. In a different form, in the form of real terrorist acts: explosions, raids, etcetera,” Kiselev said in his commentary (NTV, December 10). Likewise, Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev said yesterday, in the wake of the Alkhan-Yurt bombing, that the “guerrilla war” in Chechnya will continue because the Chechen population “morally supports” the armed separatists. The bulk of the Chechen population considers Aslan Maskhadov their president, said Aushev, who repeated his call for a political settlement to the conflict (Russian agencies, December 10).

If Aushev is correct about a majority of Chechens supporting the rebels, the reason may be the human rights abuses that have been perpetrated by Russian forces in Chechnya. In its yearly human rights report released late last week, the organization Human Rights Watch was scathing in its criticism of Russian actions in Chechnya. Russian military forces, it claimed, have committed a host of abuses there, including the deaths of several thousand civilians during the bombardment of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital, the destruction of villages “with total disregard for the civilian population,” deliberate air attacks on refugee columns, summary executions, rampant looting and the destruction of civilian property, the destruction of medical facilities, numerous instances of rape of Chechen women, the often-arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of Chechens on suspicion of belonging to or assisting the rebels, the beating and torture of detainees and extorting ransom from the relatives of detainees. Human Rights Watch also condemned the rebels, accusing them of summarily executing some captured Russian soldiers, murdering pro-Moscow Chechens and setting up installations in populated civilian areas or “firing at federal positions from such places,” thereby putting Chechen civilians in the line of fire.