July 5th 2008 · Prague Watchdog / Dzhambulat Are · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

How the bandits got their funding

How the bandits got their funding

By Dzhambulat Are

GROZNY, Chechnya – Almost nine years after the start of the second Chechen campaign it has become clear that neither the Federal nor the Chechen law enforcement bodies have been able to draw up any line of defence that could provide effective protection for the villages and settlements in the republic’s mountainous and rural areas.

Year after year the tactics of the underground resistance in the spring and summer period remain unchanged: detachments of guerrillas arrive in a village (usually under cover of darkness), take it under full or partial control, and set up roadblocks at the entries and exits. During the operation the mojahedin set fire to the houses of Chechen police officers and civil servants, killing some of their captives and letting the others go, having extracted promises from them to cease forthwith their shameful work for the enemy.

It was exactly according to this schedule that events unfolded this week in the settlement of Elistanzhi in the republic’s Vedensky district on the night of June 29-30. The Russian and local media ignored this deplorable incident, devoting only a few lines to an insignificant exchange of fire when a local police headquarters came under attack. The only information about the seizure came from a commander in the Shali sector. A certain Emir Muslim, who contacted the North Caucasus editorial office of Radio Liberty by telephone, gave details of the operation.

Since it is impossible to verify the authenticity of his account of the events, let us focus on one or two points that do not give rise to much doubt and are of particular interest. According to Emir Muslim, Elistanzhi was entered by a detachment of more than a hundred men. If this figure is not an exaggeration, then we may be talking about the largest guerrilla sortie since the start of the spring and summer campaign.

Emir Muslim also claimed that the mojahedin destroyed a Ural truck and a minibus in which Chechen policemen were travelling from the settlements of Khattuni and Eshelhatoi in order to assist their colleagues who were besieged by the guerrillas. According to the same Radio Liberty interview, the local law enforcers offered no resistance, but merely begged the guerrillas not to take their lives. As is usual in such cases, these requests went unheeded. The final detail on which Emir Muslim insists is that none of the guerrillas were wounded in the course of the raid.

In fact, after a pause which has lasted for almost two years, the underground resistance has this year once again been able to demonstrate its strength and its ability to plan and execute one military operation after another. To judge by all the evidence, the death of Shamil Basayev two years ago deprived the guerrillas of a strategy, and thus also of the ground beneath their feet, pinning down all military activity for a considerable period of time. Whether there is some connection between the choice of a new radical ideology (the Caucasus Emirate) and the enthusiasm with which the Muslim guerrillas have once again taken up arms, it is hard to say, but these events do seem to be unfolding in chronological sequence.

On the other hand, the breathing-space has had a demoralizing effect on the Russian law enforcement bodies, both Federal and local. Not only has their fighting capability failed to grow – it has either shrunk, or has stalled at the level it occupied two or three years ago. At any rate, the law enforcers are just as helpless today in the face of Umarov’s detachments as once they were incapable of repelling the incursions of Basayev.

Actually, neither Kadyrov himself nor the leaders of the Russian law enforcement agencies deny the fact that the Caucasus Emirate has gone on the attack. On July 3 a meeting of the National Anti-Terrorism Commission in Rostov was chaired by Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the FSB. It might be reasonable to expect that the new head of Russia’s security forces would have a fresh view of the situation to offer. This, however, did not happen. Bortnikov spoke in the traditional manner of the law enforcers: "By actions like these, the bandits seek to aggravate the situation, to hinder the restoration of peaceful life and to show their activity to their foreign sponsors."

Ruslan Alkhanov, the Chechen Minister of the Interior, worded his version of events in the same brilliant manner, suggesting that members of the armed underground, having received a financial boost from foreign emissaries, are now trying to demonstrate their strength and frighten the populace.

It is safe to conclude that the set of concepts with which the Kremlin operates in the Caucasus and the active vocabulary it uses to describe the armed conflict in the region remains for the time being as utterly threadbare as ever, dating back to the worst examples of Soviet propaganda.

Since the reputation of the present Chechen government as a successful neutralizer of the "Forest Brethren" is melting away, it seems that Ramzan Kadyrov has decided to find a new political platform. This week Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, the notorious Commissioner for Human Rights in the Chechen Republic, announced the discovery of a new mass grave on the republic’s territory, the second in the past two weeks. This time it is a matter of 300 slain. A fortnight ago Nukhazhiyev could boast of a far more impressive result. The first mass grave contains about 800 bodies.

The only problem is that these places of burial have long been known about in the republic. It is only now that they have become necessary to the Chechen authorities as a form of political capital. The assumption is already being expressed that Ramzan Kadyrov, feeling his position with the new Russian president to be no longer as secure as before, has decided to pre-empt the Federal centre and bring accusations against it. These grievances are all the more substantial in that the international community is ready to support them. It is said that for similar reasons Kadyrov has shown a growing interest in the problem of missing persons.

In Chechnya it is not always easy to tell who is winning or losing at any given moment. Even the guerrillas, inspired by the chance of becoming shakhids [martyrs], are experiencing some discomfort. Moskovsky komsomolets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov, who is currently providing direct coverage from the epicentre of the dramatic events, reported this week that a group of mojahedin in the mountains has been surrounded on all sides. The ring of steel around them is constantly being tightened. Among the blockaded resisters are Caucasus Emirate leader Emir Doka Umarov and his right hand man, Tarkhan Gaziyev. The operation to eliminate the gang is being carried out by the spetsnaz of the Russian military intelligence (GRU). It all sounds very serious, but the experience of the two wars has shown that no operation aimed at blockading or surrounding anyone in the mountains has ever succeeded. Perhaps this time one will?

"" website archive illustration.

(Translation by DM)




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