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New Chechen Authority to Bring Peace?

It is said there is no war in Chechnya, just a high crime rate. Is it so?
The transfer of control over the anti-terrorist operation in Northern Caucasia from the FSB to Russia's Interior Ministry is an obvious change of decor indeed. The Kremlin wants to persuade the public opinion that if peace hasn't come yet to Chechnya, it will come soon. The Russian authorities want to demonstrate that they have done everything that is required for the establishment of peace in the republic: a Constitution is adopted, a referendum was conducted and elections are to be held in October. Moscow strongly believes that under such conditions peace will inevitably come to Chechnya. But, has the Kremlin done enough. 

On July 4, Russia President Vladimir Putin signed a decree "On additional measures for fighting terrorism on the territory of Russia's Northern Caucasia Region". According to the decree, starting with September 1 the authority for control over the North-Caucasus anti-terrorist operation is given to Russia's interior minister.

The Russian president charged the Chechen Interior Ministry with passing extra measures to ensure law and order and public security in Chechnya. Starting July 1, control over the regional headquarters managing the North Caucasus anti-terrorist operation was handed over to the Russian deputy interior minister.

On August 28, FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev handed the authority over the anti-terrorist operation to Russia's Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov.

The FSB director says the situation in Chechnya has seriously changed for the better. Nikolay Patrushev says that operational activity won't get weaker after the handover of the authority to the RF Interior Ministry. He adds that shifting of the responsibilities to the Interior Ministry will allow the FSB officers devote more time to solution of operational problems. These are search and liquidation of terrorist groups that regularly organize acts of terrorism in different parts of the republic. Head of the Chechen government Anatoly Popov says that there are at least 3,000 terrorists on the territory of the republic. "These are mostly small-sized formations and groups of not more than 10-15 people. the majority of terrorists understand that it is no use to show resistance and are even ready to lay down arms. Amnesty is the measure that helps them do this." Anatoly Popov is sure "there is no war in the Chechen republic, but a very high crime rate." He adds there is no need to conduct military operations to ensure security of the population and the candidates running in the republic's October presidential elections. 

Thus, it said there is no war in Chechnya but only a high crime rate. Is this possible? Then a question arises: why does the authority headed by Nikolay Patrushev, the FSB deal with crime? Who blew up an armored vehicle with military personel on board?

Consideration of clashes that occurred on the Northern Ossetia and Ingushetia border last week need to be mentioned. According to the information available (although the information is rather contradictory), a gang of armed terrorists came across scouts of the 58th army of the North Caucasus military circuit guarding the border between Ingushetia and Northern Ossetia. The terrorists were first spotted on the territory of Ossetia, near the settlement of Komgaron. However, a skirmish broke out on the territory of Ingushetia, near the ill-fated settlement of Galashki where about a year ago, in September 2002 the Russian military came across a large group of terrorists of about 200 people.

It is highly likely that the area hasn't been thoroughly studied by the federal forces. The same way as it happened last year, terrorists managed to escape pursuit and disappeared. The Russian military claims that the group was just an advanced detachment of a large terrorist group that probably had an intention to cross the border. However, Chechens turned out to be much better organized than the federal forces who failed to call for assistance to come to the area they needed. It is likely that the advanced detachment managed to warn the basic group of the federal forces and the terrorists didn't break into Russia's territory as "the mission failed."

Thus, a logical conclusion can be made: the statement of Nikolay Patrushev saying that "the situation in Chechnya has seriously changed, there are no large terrorist groups but only small armed groups that organize separate actions" is still open to criticism. Isn't it time to give up bluffing?

Photo: FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev

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