Russia ends "counterterrorism operation" in Chechnya

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Russian government announced the termination of its "counterterrorism operation" in Chechnya effective April 16. According to the leader of the Russian secret service, Alexander Bortnikov, 20,000 soldiers will leave Chechnya in order to normalise the situation in the autonomous republic of Russia. This happened on behalf of the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev who had already announced a possible withdrawal of the Russian troops at the G20 summit in the beginning of April this year. But some forces, the special forces of Moscow's ministry of the interior, will still stay in Chechnya.

Human rights activist Lew Ponomarjov welcomed the situation, saying that the counterterrorism situation in Chechnya had been a severe violation of human rights.

Local president Ramzan Kadyrov, son of former Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov who died in a bomb blast in 2004 in Grozny, is satisfied with the situation. He is now expecting more foreign investment and a better economic growth in the area. He declared April 16 as a future holiday in Chechnya. Human rights organisations, on the other hand, accuse him of letting his own militia torture and kill his opponents.

In the meantime, the local president Ramzan Kadyrov has informed the heads of the regional administration about the end of the operation and advised them yesterday to let the former militants return to a peaceful civilian life, reports. But at the same time he settled that the rule should not apply to those rebels who had become extremists. These people — according to Kadyrov mostly living in the mountains — would not deserve any amnesty and not any public pardon, Kadyrov said.

While there were some reports on a gun battle between Russian and rebels forces in southern Chechnya, Kadyrov said on April 21 that they had checked the reports, but did not believe that anything had changed since last week. He questioned the timing of the reports which had appeared right after the news was spread that the Russian soldiers would leave Chechnya.

Tuesday, the operative headquarters for Chechnya claimed that the Russian special police and troops had already started an "anti-terrorism operation" in the Itum-Kale and Vedeno, two Chechen districts. A spokesman said that they had "received information that Chechen militants were preparing terrorist acts" there. And so they had continued with the operation. Operations in further districts were announced on Friday, according to Voice of America. This too was refuted by President Kadyrov.

RIA Novosti reported Saturday that four Russian soldiers were killed and at least three people injured in a number of shootings and bombings over the course of the past week. The firefights occurred in a Village and at a checkpoint, while the explosions all occurred near a Stadium in the capital of Grozny.

The republic of Chechnya has undergone two separatist wars in the past 15 years. The first one started in 1994 and was ended after about 21 months with the withdrawal of the Russian army. The second one started in October 1999 with the heaviest battles in 2002. Still, there is a conflict between the two parties concerning the independence of the republic from Russia. More than 100,000 people were killed in both wars, which makes about 10 per cent of the population of Chechnya. The announcement of the withdrawal of the Russian forces is seen as an official ending of the second war.