Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 6, 2003, p. 3

Andrei Nikolayev, chairman of the Duma defense committee: “Chechnya purchased weapons from Russia on a completely official basis.”

Question: Little has been said about military reforms in Russia recently. In what phase are they at the moment?

Andrei Nikolayev: It became clear long ago that the defense reforms have ground to a halt. Russia has no military forces in the state of full combat readiness, except for the strategic nuclear forces. There is nothing to reform. We have to go back to the starting point: establish a new defense organization and introduce new laws for it.

If we seriously speak about drastic military reforms, the government and the citizenry must undertake the burden of moral, financial and other kinds of costs to maintain the army. But society does not understand this at the moment.

Question: Don’t you think that such attitude of ordinary people to military service is quite a normal reaction to the disorder in the army and the unpopular war in Chechnya?

Andrei Nikolayev: All that concerns the situation in Chechnya is regulated by a presidential decree. I won’t refer to the first Chechen campaign but all necessary provisions should have been made in the law “On the state of emergency” by the year 1999. We passed it much later, however: the Duma of the third convocation did that. Nonetheless, the president is right when he refuses to alter the laws related to the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya. There is no necessity to announce the state of emergency in Chechnya now. There are hostilities there, special operations are conducted. But there is no war: the armed forces are employed much less than in 1995. The Federal Security Service (FSB), not the Defense Ministry, is in charge there.

Question: Still, what about the reaction of the population to the events in Chechnya? People do not feel relieved to know that the war in the Caucasus has been replaced with a counter-terrorism operation. There were casualties in 1995-1996 and they happen now as well.

Andrei Nikolayev: I admit that currently there are more armed forces in Chechnya than was planned. But the presence of the military has been reduced in compliance with the schedule. Shots from round the corner, blasts, acts of sabotage will go on for a long time, may be as long as five, ten, fifteen years…

After signing of definitely treacherous Khasavyurt agreements, no one did anything for three years to prepare the army for being able to solve military tasks under extraordinary conditions. Chechens had unlimited opportunities to acquire weapons and ammunition immediately at manufacturing factories, so now they are fighting with Soviet and Russian arms.

Question: Did the Chechen militants buy weapons in Russia on a completely legal basis?

Andrei Nikolayev: Definitely. In his time Victor Chernomyrdin demanded that Russian ministries and departments concerned collaborate with Chechnya. For instance, an agreement was signed between the federal Interior Ministry and its Chechen counterpart. Similar agreements were concluded between other ministries and departments. It was on the basis of those agreements that Chechnya purchased weapons from Russia. Apart from that, arms were supplied to Chechnya through criminal channels.

Question: But nothing has changed in fact: today we witness the same treachery, the same corruptibility…

Andrei Nikolayev: It is a very important question and I don’t have an answer to it. But I am confident that it is impossible to hide for a long time on a small territory of Chechnya with so many various agencies operating there. I simply do not know why they haven’t captured Maskhadov, Basayev and other Chechen warlords. The president and the government must have this question too.

It applies to all defense agencies. I ask it to chiefs of the departments concerned but receive no satisfactory answer. In the meantime, I can see the difficulties that those who fulfill orders and directives are faced with. Treachery rarely occurs with people who are doing the practical job.

Question: It means that the treachery is rooted where the tasks are set?

Andrei Nikolayev: That is a different kind of question, so let’s leave it without answer. I should say only that it must be a most vexed question for the president now. Having found an answer to it, we will see why the Chechen problem has not been resolved so far.