Russian Deputy Minister of Defence and C-in-C of land forces, Colonel-General Nikolai Kormiltsev told journalists on Wednesday that the main warlords in Chechnya--Khattab, Maskhadov and Basayev--remained in the republic. He said that the federal forces' main task was to capture these men. The commander said that not all of the bandit formations were in Chechnya, but they periodically entered the republic. The general said that the command received information about their positions and movements, but that it "comes to us 2-3 hours late." When appraising the general situation in Chechnya, Kormiltsev said that the large bandit formations no longer existed and that they had been broken up into groups of 5-10 men, although 3-4 groups numbered up to 50 fighters. According to him, federal forces have no plans to launch large-scale military operations in the winter. The commander said that 8,000 troops had been withdrawn from Chechnya over the summer and autumn. In particular, two regiments from the Moscow military district had been pulled out, along with one from the Siberian military district. Consequently, 42 motorised infantry divisions are now permanently stationed in Chechnya, as well as a special forces unit from the Chief Intelligence Agency, which conducts special operations, and an airborne unit. The commander reported that, following the withdrawal of these units, the main responsibility for maintaining order in Chechnya had been taken up by regional military commandants' offices that are supported by mortar units and automatic grenade-launcher sub-divisions.
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election
On December 14, President Putin holds his annual Q&A session with Russian and foreign journalists. This conference is considered to be the beginning of his presidential campaign