On March 27, the commander of the Combined Group of Russian Forces in Chechnya, Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, signed a special order, Order No. 80, stipulating new rules for the conducting of special operations within population points of the Chechen Republic. The specific aim of the order is to “lessen the [number of] unlawful acts committed against the local population and to increase trust between the soldiers and the civilian authorities.” The order mandates that all special operations “are to be conducted not only in the presence of procurators but also of the local authorities and the organs of internal affairs.” A list of persons taken into custody during an operation must be compiled, and copies of that list must be provided both to the procuracy and to the local pro-Moscow Chechen administration. “We are raising the responsibility of all officials so people will not go missing without trace,” Moltenskoi explained, “There are facts showing that innocent or not-so-innocent people have gone missing during special operations–either through the fault of individual commanders or others who conducted the operations.” Diederik Lohman, director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, commented: “All of this has been promised before, and most of it is already in Russian law. You can produce laws and decrees, but in the end it all comes down to implementation. Right now, soldiers and officers don’t really feel there is a real chance they will be prosecuted if they break the law” (NTV.ru, March 28; LA Times, March 30).
Commenting on General Moltenskoi’s Order No. 80, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told RIA Novosti that he is convinced that it will serve “to speed up the stabilization of the situation in the republic.” This “unprecedented document,” he said, contains “an honest analysis of the established facts of unlawful actions by soldiers during the conducting of special operations” (NTV.ru, March 29). On March 28, during a meeting of the prime minister of Chechnya, Stanislav Il’yasov, and the pro-Moscow Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs, a decision was taken “categorically prohibiting employees of the Chechen police to wear masks” during the performance of their duties (Kolokol.ru, March 28).