Fail grades in Russian and warfare
By Dzhambulat Are
GROZNY, Chechnya – The audacious attacks carried out by guerrillas in Chechnya during recent days have revealed the vulnerability of the military strategy the Kremlin has constructed in the rebel republic. The Chechenization of the conflict, in which Vladimir Putin placed such hopes, has begun to break down.
Until now, everything has gone in accordance with the planning of the federal centre. The energetic approach of President Ramzan Kadyrov, who seeks to finish off his former allies in the struggle for Ichkerian independence, has produced a quite tangible result. For a long time, those who were following the situation could not escape a sense that the underground resistance was agonizing over its own extinction. Guerrilla attacks in Grozny and other population centres in the Chechen flatlands more or less came to a halt. And it seemed that the remnants of the once-feared Ichkerian army had finally been pushed to the verge of complete disappearance.
This gave Ramzan Kadyrov grounds for publicly asserting that his units had achieved total victory, and that in the mountains there remained only a few dozen "shaytans" who were vainly trying to escape unavoidable retribution. These claims by the Chechen president were disputed by the Russian generals, who need a strong and numerous resistance in order to justify the presence of federal forces in the republic. However, Kadyrov kept the situation firmly under control, which suited the Kremlin very well.
But now the situation has changed dramatically. First, brigades under the command of Emir Tarkhan Gaziyev conducted night raids on villages in the Achkhoy-Martanovsky and Urus-Martanovsky districts. Then the guerrillas staged several ambushes of Russian reconnaissance patrols and local police. Finally, on the night of June 13 the armed forces of the Caucasus Emirate led by field commander Usman Matsigov, nicknamed “Shatral”, entered the village of Benoy in the Nozhay-Yurtovsky district. They killed several local residents and set light to police motor vehicles and about half a dozen houses. Some of Kadyrov’s men were also taken prisoner and then released again after being subjected to “re-education”.
But the activity of the guerrillas was now on the increase. On June 16 they attacked a convoy of Russian border guards near the village of Chishki at the entrance to the Argun Gorge, killing three FSB officers and wounding five. And the next day, in the centre of the village of Bamut, in the republic’s south-west, guerrillas opened fire on an APC, which was burned to cinders.
All these developments compelled Ramzan Kadyrov to make some harsh pronouncements on the role of law enforcement agencies that are deployed in Chechnya. He accused them of not showing enough zeal and efficiency in fighting the remaining members of the illegal armed groups in the republic.
"In Chechnya one can hardly move for all the units of the various law enforcement bodies. In these circumstances, people do not understand why there are still any armed groups, guerrillas, bandits, why they have not been completely destroyed or brought to justice," Kadyrov said in fury when he spoke at a meeting held in Grozny’s House of Government on June 18. His irritation was caused by the fact that he has essentially been left face to face with the guerrillas. "And today in the forests, in spite of the rain, there are hundreds of police officers. They are combing the area. They are engaging the criminals in battle, although that is not their job – there are special units for this purpose. If necessary, I will personally put on camouflage and go and help in the fight. I will find and destroy," the Chechen president said.
What Ramzan Kadyrov found most offensive of all was the behaviour of the guerrillas who attacked Benoy. That village is thought to be exclusively inhabited by members of the extended Kadyrov family. In the republic there are persistent rumours that the Yamadayev brothers were involved in Emir Shatral’s attack on the place. It is said that the Yamadayevs organized the raid in order to demonstrate Kadyrov’s weakness. The story goes that earlier, when the village was being guarded by men of the Vostok battalion, the guerrillas left it alone, but that when the Yamadayev forces themselves were under siege, the hands of the underground resistance were untied. This may possibly be why Ramzan Kadyrov is once again ready to exchange his Hugo Boss suit for military camouflage.
The Chechen leader also let fly at the media, which raised an incredible hubbub over the recent attacks. In reality, Kadyrov insisted, the situation in the republic was calm and stable. The big public events which are being held in Grozny just now are intended as a demonstration of this version of a "calm Chechnya". Hardly had the "Noah's Ark" film festival drawn to a close than the celebrated variety singer Iosif Kobzon, together with the band of the Federal Russian Interior Ministry, descended on the republic. He is making another tour of the Caucasus, to mark his seventieth birthday. Kobzon is one of Chechnya’s oldest Honoured Artistes. He earned the [Soviet] title back in1964, when he sang in Grozny’s Philharmonic Hall. Speaking in Grozny, Kobzon reminisced about his last stay in Ichkeria, which took place in 1997, after the first war. He did not, however, mention how at a large assembly he accepted the gift of a Makarov pistol from the hands of Shamil Basayev.
But fighting and celebrations are not the only features of life in Chechnya today. Last week, as elsewhere in Russia, final year students in Chechen schools took the Unified State Exam. And now the results have been announced. 50 per cent of those Chechen students received a fail grade in the Russian language.
(Translation by DM)
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· The underground gets its second wind (PW, 18.6.2008)