Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 16

In mid-April, the Russian minister for the affairs of Chechnya, Vladimir Elagin, admitted during an interview with RIA Novosti the possibility of further significant complications in the situation in Chechnya. The advent of the so-called “green season,” he predicted, would likely witness an increase in the activity of the Chechen separatists. The minister’s comments on the future fate of the Chechen capital of Djohar (Grozny) were notably grim: “The situation in the city,” he said, “is not getting better; it is getting worse. At night, the city is not controlled at all, and, during the day, the authorities are [only] with difficulty controlling the situation.” Elagin also sharply criticized the practice of Russian “mopping up operations,” which, he said, were serving to alienate the Chechen populace. As for the future of Djohar, Elagin remarked that the city will be restored “no sooner than in five to seven years” (RIA Novosti, April 11).

On April 13, the Military News Agency described a single day’s activities by the Russian federal forces based in Djohar: “Federals have checked 6,665 people, 4,137 cars and 189 houses and detained nine suspected guerillas in Grozny during the past twenty-four hours. They confiscated 1,138 [rounds of] ammunition for small arms, four F-1 grenades and 0.6 kilograms of TNT. Sappers disarmed two explosive devices. The military commandant’s office of the Leninsky district has been attacked twice and the military commandant’s office of the Staropromyslovsky district once during the past twenty-four hours.”

The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported on April 14 that Chechen separatist field commanders were planning to alter the situation on a number of the fronts in the republic during the current spring season. “According to official [Russian] data, there are now 500 rebels in the city [Djohar]–in reality there could be ten times more [that is, 5,000]…. According to military intelligence, there is taking place a concentration of rebels around Grozny; they are arriving here from the mountain districts.” And the newspaper summed up, “No one doubts that the rebels will attempt a broad-scale action. The only question is where. Will it be in Grozny, Gudermes, Argun or Vedeno?”

On April 17, Gazeta.ru reported that the Russian forces expected a large-scale attack by the separatists at any time. “It is not excluded,” the online daily noted, “that they will try to take Grozny, the outlying districts of which are already not controlled by the federals. An exodus of civilians from the city has begun. And this is being reported not by human rights activists but by the press service of the Federal Group of Forces.” Gazeta.ru noted that there were ample grounds for “gloomy prognoses.” The promise of the rebels that they would disrupt the Orthodox Easter period had “in part been fulfilled.” Concerning the departure of Chechen civilians from the capital, Gazeta.ru observed, “The residents of Grozny possess the same information as the press center of the MVD–the rebels are already in the city, and they are actively preparing to seize it.”