The growing frequency of attacks in Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Karachaevo-Cherkessia appears to mark not only the seasonal increase in rebel activity that comes with the start of spring and return of foliage, but may also indicate growing regional coordination between rebels in furtherance of Chechen rebel leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev’s aim to extend operations beyond Chechnya (Chechnya Weekly, May 18).
The Minister of Culture in the Chechen separatist government, Akhmed Zakaev, commented on these developments in an interview with Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky published on the website of Radio Liberty’s Russian-language website (Svoboda.org) on May 19. “Today the situation in the region has changed fundamentally,” Zakaev said. “If five to six years after the start of the second military campaign, the energizing of the Chechen resistance was observed only on the territory of the Chechen Republic, then more than a year after the murder of President Aslan Maskhadov a political decision has been taken to expand the battleground. Now the situation that in past years we saw in Chechnya itself is being extended to all the regions of the North Caucasus…Over the past year, as far as I know, the leadership of Chechnya, the resistance forces, managed in a more coordinated manner to set out their work, [and expand] cooperation and links with other military-political centers that have formed in other republics of the North Caucasus.”
Babitsky also quoted Gennady Gudkov, a member of the Russian State Duma’s Security Committee, who acknowledged growing political violence throughout the North Caucasus. “The handwriting is one and the same,” he said. “Everybody is talking about how the regional authorities are unable to control the situation effectively, therefore the activities of the band formations are getting a new impulse.” The most recent violence in the region indicates that the situation is worsening, Gudkov observed, adding that he saw indications of the deteriorating security situation in the North Caucasus during a recent trip to Stavropol Krai. “I found out that on Stavropol’s territory there are already armed bands operating that have penetrated there from the neighboring republics of the North Caucasus,” he reported.
In his report, Babitsky noted that Chechen President Alu Alkhanov had discussed three recent bombing attacks and acknowledged that separatist attacks on servicemen and police had become more frequent during a meeting of his security chiefs last week. Likewise, Chechnya’s military commandant, Grigory Fomenko, said: “An analysis of the developing situation in connection with the arrival of the summer season allows one to assume that the militants are stepping up their activities.” Fomenko noted that increased rebel activity was concentrated mostly in Chechnya’s mountainous regions–Vedeno, Nozhai-Yurt and Shali districts, as well as parts of Urus-Martan and along Chechnya’s administrative border with Ingushetia.