Is the war in Chechnya "over" again?
By Ruslan Isayev
CHECHNYA – One year ago, just a few days after Shamil Basayev was killed by a truck blast on the outskirts of the Ingushetian village of Ekazhevo, Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defence minister of the day, flew into Grozny and with an expression of thinly disguised delight said: "This is our bin Laden. I would like to remind you that all the leaders of so-called Ichkeria are now dead. Dudayev, Yandarbiyev, Maskhadov, Basayev. All of them. The war is over and the city needs to be restored... ".
Though Grozny’s restoration has been achieved, albeit only partially, the question of the war is still open and will probably remain so for a long time.
The terrorist threat in Russia has certainly grown less since Basayev's death. After many years of remaining on high alert, the law enforcement agencies are now able to work normally. This is not true of the Caucasus. There the present summer has turned out to be a hot one in every sense – with regard both to the weather and to the general situation. In the opinion of many observers, such activity on the part of the resistance may not have been seen for at least three years.
Last year's amnesty which made it possible for several hundred guerrillas to leave the ranks of the resistance has expired. But since early spring guerrilla units have been attacking soldiers and policemen in various parts of the republic. Meanwhile the early part of this summer saw the enlistment of "new recruits". Some young men joined the guerrilla forces as soon as they had passed their final exams and the last school bell had sounded. According to some reports, the number of fighters who have gone over to the resistance fluctuates between 20 to 50. The guerrilla sources put the figure at a minimum of 300.
In Russia, some officials take a cautious view of Kadyrov’s statement that the war in Chechnya is over. In a recent commentary on the Chechen President’s statement, Duma Security Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said that "in the light of recent events in Ingushetia, I would not share Kadyrov’s optimism... as that republic is Chechnya’s neighbour."
The prospect of a “third stage" of the war in Chechnya is the subject of constant and universal discussion. The flames are fanned by rumours that large numbers of guerrillas have acquired police uniforms, and also by the frequent landmine and sabotage operations carried out by guerrilla units.
The recent attack on a group of sappers in the Vedensky district, in which three conscript soldiers were killed, seemed to be a reply to Kadyrov’s assertion that the war is completely over.
Shortly before this, as the result of a special operation aimed at detaining a guerrilla who had ensconced himself in a private house, gunmen killed Saypudi Lorsanov, the head of Grozny’s Oktyabrsky district police headquarters, who was the son of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s internal security service. This unit works to identify the so-called "turncoats" in the ranks of the Chechen police. There are thought to be several hundred such individuals who render assistance to the guerrillas in various ways.
With the passage of each year and the loss of each new leader, the armed resistance is becoming more and more cautious and unpredictable in its actions. For example, the expected acts of revenge for Basayev’s death did not materialize. Yet only a few days ago all the Russian enforcement agencies in Chechnya were placed on heightened alert, while this level of security has been maintained by local police for a month now.
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