CHECHNYA: THE "QUIET WAR" CONTINUES

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The situation in Chechnya keeps attracting attention of society.

The biggest loss of life for the federal forces in the second Chechen campaign occurred on August 19. The militants shot down an Mi-26 helicopter, and 121 people were killed. However, statistics show that the number of people that are killed in the republic monthly is the same on average.

Last week alone, the militants blew up 11 armored vehicles with radio-controlled mines. They shot at the motorcade of Mikhail Zhidkov, the Mayor of Grozny, at the border with Ingushetia, between Assinovskaya and the Kavkaz checkpoint. The mayor remained alive only by chance. A vehicle with local policemen was blown up on September 3 in Shali, and 16 people were killed. Recently, a unit of policemen from Novosibirsk returning to the base from the Sibiryak checkpoint was ambushed in the Itum-Kale District. Five policemen were killed and three wounded. The head of administration of the Nadterechny District, the quietest district of the republic, was killed.

An increasingly growing number of people and politicians start thinking about what to do…how to transit to peaceful life in the republic. Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov proposes six clauses related to the main steps in restoration of order in Chechnya.

First, Primakov proposes separation of civilians from the militants. He considers this step to be the most important for solving of the Chechen problem at the current stage. According to Primakov, unfortunately this was not done at the beginning of the antiterrorist operation: the militants were concentrated in towns and villages, which led to big losses among civilians during combat or “cleaning up” operations. Of course, it is always easier to analyze the situation looking back, but “losses could have been smaller if separation of civilians from the militants was among the main tasks of the operation from the very beginning,” says Primakov.

Second, Primakov considers negotiations with the field commanders to be possible. He adds, “at least with some of them.”

Third, he emphasizes that “the prospect of negotiations does not exclude decisive combat operations for destruction of the Chechen gangs, for which a part of the federal forces should remain there, or development of cooperation with the Chechens, who have already given up armed struggle and are prepared to attempt to provide security in their localities.”

Fourth, he calls on the federal center to work more actively with the republics neighboring Chechnya, primarily with Ingushetia, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Dagestan. “In all these republics, and the experience of Dagestan confirms this, there is definitely a patriotic backbone that can provide decisive assistance to the federal center in combating of terrorists,” notes Primakov.

Fifth, he says that it is possible to appoint a plenipotentiary of the President of Russia in Chechnya to command the armed forces and to organize economic and ideological work. According to Primakov, “Units of the Defense Ministry, forces of Interior Ministry, units of the Federal Security Service and local administrations should be re-subordinated to this person. Through this person the President should pursue his policy in the Chechen Republic, which could receive the status of a special presidential district.”

Sixth, Primakov says that targeted work on the Chechen situation is necessary not only with leaders of international organizations and foreign countries, but also with the public, especially in the countries that have announced support for American operations against terrorism.

It is possible to notice that all these clauses are to different extents present in the policy of the federal center, except for the clauses calling on restarting of a dialog with the field commanders. Moscow does not agree to negotiate with the militants, although it accepts, on the other hand, constructive cooperation with the people who have participated in combat operations against the federal forces, but have not stained themselves with blood. The academic and idealistic nature of Primakov’s proposals coexists with radicalism of the military. Representatives of the Defense Ministry have frequently stated that they advocate stringent order in the republic. Their intentions are primarily targeted at strengthening of security in the military units, transportation of personnel and so on.

The recent order of the Defense Minister related to investigation of the catastrophe of the Mi-26 helicopter of August 19 and punishment of those to blame for it confirms stringent requirements of the military in relation to security.

Last Saturday, the Defense Ministry announced that it finished investigation into the catastrophe of the Mi-26 helicopter on August 19, which had resulted in deaths of more than 100 servicemen. The Defense Minister announced that 19 people were punished by disciplinary measures, including 12 generals. Among them are the Commander of Army Aviation, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel General Vitaly Pavlov (he will be dismissed), Ground Forces Commander and Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Nikolai Kormiltsev (he received a reprimand), his first deputy Colonel General Alexander Morozov, Commander of the North Caucasus Military District Colonel General Gennady Troshev (both received severe reprimands), while Senior Deputy Commander of the North Caucasus Military District Colonel General Vladimir Bulgakov was warned about incomplete compliance with the duties attached to his post.

Acting Commander of the United Group of Forces Lieutenant General Sergei Makarov, Chief of Staff and Senior Deputy Commander of Army Aviation Major General Anatoly Surtsukov received severe reprimands. Other senior officers of the General Staff and North Caucasus Military District were also punished.

Meanwhile, nothing is said about the reasons that have led to the tragedy. Were the militants, which had managed to come close to the military airfield in Khankala and to fire at the helicopter, found? Why was shooting down of the helicopter by a portable air defense missile system possible?

Thus, the war in Chechnya continues, and people still get killed. New losses of servicemen are reported daily. In the Defense Ministry, and in the whole apparatus of the Kremlin, there are no common recipes for solution of the problem. Scarce financing does not help in solving the problem too. Over the last two years, generals allegedly guilty of tragedies and mass deaths of servicemen in Chechnya have been dismissed from the Armed Forces and punished as whole groups, as teams having worked together. However, personnel purges and unjustified reorganizations do not lead to improvement of the situation in Chechnya.

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