Defense Ministry officials say that personnel reshuffles in command of forces operating in the North Caucasus have nothing to do with Putin’s dissatisfaction with the progress of the operation

After the Christmas holidays, when federal forces announced a truce for three days, the situation in Chechnya sharply aggravated. In the populated spots controlled by federal forces (Shali, Argun, and Gudermes) militants attempted to seize administrative buildings and kill militia and OMON units.

Simultaneously the information leaked to the press about dismissal of Major General Vladimir Shamanov and Lieutenant General Gennady Troshev from the posts of the Western and Eastern Groups respectively. Journalists charged them with mistakes in commanding their troops, and accused of big casualties among the servicemen and civilians.

Meanwhile, on January 8, Acting President Vladimir Putin announced that “Russia does not neglect such people as Troshev and Shamanov.” Representatives of the Defense Ministry reported that replacement of Shamanov and Troshev “is not a consequence of any professional mistakes made during the anti-terrorist operation.”

According to Defense Ministry sources, the general Staff decided to replace commanders of operational groups in Chechnya “to enable other commanders receive combat experience.” Due to this a group of senior officers and generals will soon arrive to the area of combat operations both from the General Staff and from remote military districts, reported military sources. The sources also noted that until recently the operation in Chechnya had been commanded primarily by generals and officers of the North-Caucasus Military District.

We can believe this, but it is also interesting that after January 14 the media reported that Shamanov and Troshev returned to their posts of the Eastern and Western Group commanders. Return of Troshev and Shamanov happened after the visit of General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin, and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo to Chechnya.

We cannot rule out that with their assistance the combat generals restored the status quo. It is rumored that all this happened because after appointment of Putin as the Acting President he decided to change his attitude towards the forms and methods of the anti-terrorist operation. Suspension of combat operations in Grozny was announced for the period of Christmas holiday. At the same time Putin conducted a range of important meetings, and took some humanitarian measures.

“Putin currently thinks more already about the peaceful life in Chechnya. I made sure of this organizing and accompanying humanitarian convoys to the North Caucasus a few times,” says academician Georgy Trapeznikov, the President of the International Academy of Spiritual Unity of the Peoples of the World. He confirmed this saying that in accordance with the government resolution assignments are sent to the liberated districts of Chechnya for payments to pensioners, teachers, doctors, and so on. Trapeznikov says that replacing Yeltsin Putin is more actively organizing activities for peaceful settlement of Chechnya. For example, he is permanently in touch with Nikolai Koshman, the Deputy Prime Minister, and government plenipotentiary to Chechnya. According to the PR service of the Kremlin, Putin “instructs Koshman with regard to supply of medications, textbooks, foods to the liberated districts of Chechnya,” as well as electric energy and fuel and lubricants.

For example, since in the Shali and Urus-Martan Districts electric mains are damaged, and their repair will take at least a month the Acting President decided to sent additional machinery there.

About 200,000 Chechen refugees remain in Ingushetia. “They need a certain assistance, and structures of the Emergency Situations Ministry and Federal Migration Service continue its provision in accordance with Putin’s instructions.” According to Trapeznikov, the wish of Putin to revive Chechnya already meets understanding of Chechen population. For example, Malika Gezimieva, the head of administration of the Gudermes District, announced that arrival of Acting President Vladimir Putin to Gudermes on the New Year’s night once again convinced her that “the long ten years of suffering will finally end.”

Thus Putin is emerging in the public opinion as a creative and peaceful leader. Putin should get liked not only by the country’s population, but also by the West. Ordinary people like his decisiveness and cruelty, but foreign leaders would like to see Putin more humane and democratic. That is why behavior of Putin will be different from his behavior in the Prime Minister’s capacity.

Meanwhile return of Troshev and Shamanov, and active operations in the mountains and in Grozny demonstrate resolution of Putin to finish the anti-terrorist campaign as soon as possible. However is this possible?

Maskhadov has announced beginning of guerrilla war against federal forces. Can the troops counter-act to it?

On January 13 Colonel General Petr Latyshev, the Deputy Interior Minister, announced that federal forces will “give an adequate response” to activation of guerrilla operations on the part of the militants. In particular, he meant increase of combat readiness of district internal affairs departments in the liberated districts of Chechnya, more active search for bandits, improvement of special operations efficiency in the populated spots, as well as the measures for improvement of cooperation between the Interior Forces and Defense Ministry forces, “first of all from the standpoint of quick solving of arising problems.”

Latyshev added that the so-called “clean up” operations will be consecutive and thorough. He added that henceforth “deep and comprehensive” checks would be conducted in all populated spots of Chechnya regardless of the situation there. “Checks will be carried out in the full scope proceeding from the current legislation,” noted Latyshev.

According to him, this means that “every building, every room in a populated spot should be checked, and persons subject to registration should be checked and detected.” Latyshev denied the reports about contradictions and bad coordination of operations of the military and law enforcement agencies during the anti-terrorist operation, in particular during the recent events in Shali and Argun. “I would not blame the Interior Ministry of the Defense Ministry for what has happened, because not a single decision is made with regard to any certain populated spot which federal forces unilaterally by the military or by militia,” stressed Latyshev.

Naturally, there will be positive effect from this, but how big will it be? The war is not over, and it continues. It continues with an alternating success for federal forces. Despite their success the militants penetrating into the already liberated districts under disguise of civilians are trying to inflict big losses on the troops.

Igor Kastyshin, captain of the second rank, a representative of the Defense Ministry PR service, also spoke about the changing of character of combat operations in Chechnya, and transition of militants to guerrilla tactics in some places. According to official information of the Defense Ministry, near Serzhen-Yurt the main militant forces are concentrated among which there are many mercenaries, including the Afghan Taliban. They regularly try to break into the plains district of Chechnya, including under disguise of civilians.

Thus, the starting guerrilla war destabilizes the situation in already liberated districts of Chechnya, which will not assist Acting President Putin in his struggle for the presidency.