Day: June 6, 2006

Redrawing the Lines

Last Friday, Russia's foreign minister announced that the "unrecognized republics" of the former Soviet Union "have a right to self-determination." Writing in Kommersant, correspondents Vladimir Solovyev and Vladimir Novikov see this as an indication that, in the run-up to the G8 conference, Russia "wants to send a message to the West about its exclusive rights in the former Soviet Union and the lengths it will go to to restore its superpower status." The obvious inference to be drawn from the announcement is that Russia no longer respects the territorial integrity of Georgia and Moldova, and that Moscow intends to continue supporting pro-Russian breakaway movements there.

Meanwhile, a Regnum correspondent quotes Moldovan activist Yevgeny Nikolayev as saying that the Ukrainian political crisis may spread to Moldova, and that

“[Vladimir] Voronin’s refusal to pursue the policy of ‘Finlandization’ carried out (although on paper) before him and characterized by relatively balanced partner relations with the West, as well as with the East, has broken the constitutional foundations of the society as well as the mental basis of the common Moldovan citizen.”

Security Tightened in Grozny

A Prague Watchdog report (my translation)

May 5, 2006

Security measures heightened in Grozny

By Umalt Chadayev

GROZNY, Chechnya – Since this morning (June 5) security measures have been intensified at the police checkpoint located at the entrance to Grozny from the direction of the Kavkaz federal highway. Members of the Akhmat Kadyrov special-purpose police regiment (MPSN) of the Chechen Interior Ministry have been conducting a thorough check of motor vehicles and passengers entering and leaving the capital.

A kilometre-long queue of motor vehicles has formed at the checkpoint. The increased attention of the police has been mainly directed in at motor transport entering the city.

"I was late for work today because there was a huge traffic jam at the block-post (the usual name for checkpoints in Chechnya) at the entrance to the city, caused by cars, buses and minibus-taxis. Everyone and everything was being stopped and checked, even the documents of officials. No one gave any explanation, they just said it was their job," says Alkhazur Usamov, a 33-year-old resident of the Urus-Martanovsky district.

"I was nearly an hour late. The waiting-time in the queue was 40 minutes. I don’t know who they were looking for, or what kind of ‘operation’ it was. They were mostly inspecting cars coming into Grozny, but the inspection of the traffic leaving the city wasn’t so thorough. Some passengers were singled out to have their documents checked," he said.

An Interior Ministry source said that the checks on traffic in and out of the city had been planned. "Nothing unusual has happened. This is just ordinary preventive police work. The measures are being carried out by members of the Kadyrov special-purpose police regiment," he says.

Meanwhile the situation in Chechnya and in Grozny itself remains rather complex. Rumours that “something is going to happen soon” have begun to spread in the republic again. It is probable that the appearance of these rumours is directly linked to the re-launching of guerrilla operations both in the mountainous part of Chechnya as well as in a number of lowland districts and the city of Grozny.

Last year one of the Chechen guerrilla leaders, Shamil Basayev – who occupies the post of vice-premier in charge of power structures in the Ichkerian government – announced that in the summer of 2006 the guerrillas planned to “cross the Volga". Quite recently websites close to the guerrillas posted information that, on a commission from Aslan Maskhadov’s successor, Ichkerian President Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, Basayev had completed a “tour of inspection” of the North Caucasus republics and had held a conference with guerrilla field commanders.

In the opinion of some observers, the guerrillas may launch a sharp increase in their operations during the next few weeks. "The G8 summit is due to take place in St Petersburg in July. Sadulayev, Basayev, Umarov and the other guerrilla leaders are hardly likely to let slip this opportunity of announcing their presence. Even now there is quite a perceptible increase in guerrilla activity, not only in Chechnya, but also in Ingushetia, Daghestan and other places. Government bureaucrats can talk all they like about the situation being stable, but in reality the war is continuing," a Chechen political analyst thinks.

"The fact that the high command of Russia’s Interior Ministry troops is talking about the need for an increase of 5,000 men in its Chechnya grouping also says a great deal. It looks as though the rosy scenario that’s being drawn for us today by the military, the bureaucracy and practically all the Russian media may not be so bright after all. The situation can change significantly at any moment," he says.