Situation in the Chechen Republic

CHECHNYA: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

CHAPTER 1: Geography, population and HISTORY.

Where is Chechnya situated geographically and what is its status within the Russian Federation?

The Chechen Republic is located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus and in the adjoining Chechen plain and Terek-Kuma lowlands. Geographically, the republic's territory, covering something in the order of 15,700 square kilometres, is divided into flat and mountainous country.

The Chechen Republic is one of the 89 constituent members of the Russian Federation and forms part of the North Caucasian economic region and the Southern Federal District. Administratively, the Chechen Republic is made up of 18 districts. Its capital Grozny, with a population of about 300,000, is being restored as an industrial, cultural and scientific centre of Chechnya. Other main cities include Gudermes, Argun, Urus-Martan, and Shali. Chechnya has about 500 settlements.

What is the strategic importance of the region?

The Greater Caucasus, wedged in between the Black and Caspian Seas on either side of the Main Caucasus Ridge, has been known to travellers and seafarers since ancient times.

It attracted them not only with its inimical beauty and uniqueness but also, as it was believed then, by untold wealth. It was sought by the Greek argonauts who went in search of the golden fleece and later by Byzantine and Venetian merchants. In former times the Great Silk Road, laid as early as the second century BC, crossed the Greater Caucasus. Western powers resisted Russia's growing might in the Caucasus and on the Black Sea.

Their interest in the Caucasus was also fueled by the discovery of Caspian oil deposits. Force was resorted to on many occasions to wrest these rich and strategically important areas from Russia, first in the course of the 19th century by Britain, and then in the 20th century by Nazi Germany.

The Northern Caucasus still remains the bridge between Russia and Transcaucasia, Europe and Asia.

What natural resources and minerals does Chechnya boast?

Chechnya's main mineral wealth is oil. All in all, the republic has about 30 oil fields, which in November 2002 were yielding up to 4,000 tons of oil a day. The locals have used this black gold for domestic needs and medicinal purposes since ancient times, extracting it from oil springs and specially dug wells.

At the beginning of last century, commercial oil was produced at only three fields. The Soviet authorities ordered detailed studies to be made of the geological structure of the Grozny oil province, which discovered a string of new oil deposits.

In the 1930s and 40s, work started to develop the major Chechen fields: Benoi, Malgobek, Goragor, Oisungur, Adu-Yurt and Tashkalin. Apart from oil and gas, Chechnya has large reserves of mineral materials used in the construction industrySpecial mention should also be made of the many mineral springs with great therapeutic properties. The availability of mineral water sources of various chemical compositions and temperatures could allow a wide network of spa treatment facilities to be established here. In Soviet times, a resort called Sernovodsk was open in Chechnya. The republic is also rich in woods. The most widespread species is beech, which is used to make furniture, music instruments, plywood and parquet. Hornbeam, oak, ash, maple, elm and linden are also used for commercial purposes.

What does Chechnya mean for Russia today?

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chechnya became an important border region on Russia's southern flank - an extensive stretch of the Russo-Georgian border runs through its territory. The republic also borders on other Russian constituent members: Dagestan, Ingushetia, and the Stavropol Territory. Chechnya's territory also provides an important transport corridor. The republic is linked by rail with major Russian and CIS economic regions, transporting oil products, agricultural raw materials, machines and food products. Chechnya is crossed by the Moscow-Rostov-Baku motor highway. There is also a well developed pipeline network in the Chechen Republic.

What is Chechnya's current population?

According to preliminary data of the latest 2002 all-Russian census, Chechnya has a population of more than one million.

The census revealed fast rates of population growth, especially in rural regions. The most densely populated areas are mountain foothills and the valleys of the Terek, Sunzha and Argun rivers.

What can you say about the ethnic composition of Chechnya?

It is a multiethnic republic. Dozens of nationalities have inhabited it since time immemorial. Apart from Chechens the Ingushes, Russians, Kumyks and Nogais are the largest entities. There are thousands of Armenian, Jewish, Ukrainian, Avar and Tatar families, Georgians, Azeris, Kurds, Andians, Lezghins, Circassians, Ossetes and others. Chechens account for the majority of Chechnya's population. They are among the world's oldest ethnic entities. Seventh century Armenian manuscripts refer to them as Nakhcha Mat'an "Nukhchi speakers".

Persian manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries mention them as "the Nukhchi people". Exceeding a million, Chechens are the largest ethnic community of the North Caucasus. Chechens live in neighbouring Ingushetia, Dagestan and the Stavropol Territory, many other parts of Russia,in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Ukraine, other CIS countries, and far outside the former Soviet Union. Culture and religion link Chechens to the Ingush. Together they form the Vainakh ethnos, with ties of kinship, history, geography, economic, linguistic and cultural closeness. Indigenous Caucasians, the Vainakh speak the Nakh language, which belongs to the North Caucasian group of the Ibero-Caucasian language family. Chechen society was historically multiethnic, steadily incorporating the culture and customs of its neighbours, in particular, Russia.

What is the social make-up of the Chechen population? What are the specificities of the local clan arrangement?

Unlike other Caucasian ethnic communities, the Chechen and Ingushes have to a certain extent preserved communal rule and tribal institutions. Social and class distinctions were not graphically manifest in the Chechen community for many centuries, so the community emerged as the dominating social pattern, including ethnic Chechen and other families within a major settlement or bringing together several minor villages. Clan meetings have ordered community life since the earliest times, while a meeting of the entire community determined the use of farmland, appointed the days for ploughing and haymaking, and mediated disputes.

Several communities of common ancestry make up a tribal organisation, known as the "teip", the Nakh word for "clan". Every teip inhabits its ancestral land, which is commonly owned. Chechnya has an approximate total 150 clans.

What religions are practised in Chechnya?

The Vainakh ancestors of the Chechens and Ingushes were originally pagan. Paganism reigned all over the Caucasus from the 3rd to the first millennium B.C. during the times of Hurrian and Urartu states. Christianity came to the North Caucasus from Georgia somewhere around the 10th century.

Not only legends and traditions testify to the Christian past of Chechens, but also numerous ancient and medieval monuments and artifacts discovered by archaeologists. Historically speaking, the period of Christianity in Chechnya did not last for long.

The 13th - 15th centuries were marked by aggressive Muslim penetration, and the majority of Chechens had embraced Islam by the 15th and 16th centuries.

Sufism began to be propagated in Chechnya in the mid-19th century, with its religious tolerance and a penchant for metaphysical idealism and asceticism. Islam retained its influence in Chechnya even in the Soviet years when worship was not encouraged. Preachers from various Arab countries brought Wahhabism to Chechnya in the latter half of the 1990s. Followers of wahhabism, which has a strong political tinge based on subjective interpretation of Islamic precepts, seek to spread Islam worldwide and establish a united Muslim state, the caliphate. When Wahhabites preach jihad, or holy war, they mean a fight not only against infidels, but non-Wahhabite Muslims as well.

Why have the Chechens failed to create their own state?

Vainakh tribes, which populated modern-day Chechnya, and related Caucasian nations attempted to establish a state of their own even in the earlymiddle ages.

Thus, the Serir kingdom existed in the Chechen and Dagestani mountains from the 4th century to the 12th, while Alanian multiethnic early feudal state was formed in the North Caucasian plains and foothills. Mongol invaders forced Chechens into the mountains in the 13th and 14th centuries. The hosts of Tamerlane wiped the Semsim state off the face of the map at the end of the 14th century ending to a long period of decline.

As the Golden Horde disintegrated, Chechens began venturing down from the mountains to re-populate gradually the plains. The traditional mode of life was restored in the greater part of Chechnya, with the adat, unwritten common code of law, alone limiting personal freedom. At the same time, belonging to the tribal and feudal nobility did not guarantee hereditary rule . The Vainakh held freedom sacred.

Their bellicose individualism was so strong that at a certain stage of development it proved to be an obstacle to the emergence of a nation. Indicatively, as Chechen communities became embroiled in internecine strife, they invited princelings of their highland neighbours to rule them, because they feared the rise of anyone of their own. Local feudal rulers could only rule small localities. The Vainakh never had a king, so unity was always a topical problem with them. The Chechen community was alien to statehood, and customs were the main thing they would bow to. With mountain communities, the interests of the family and the clan usually prevailed over the national ones.

That was why it was difficult to establish a lasting state there.

What historical factors led to the incorporation of Chechnya into Russia?

Chechnya was for a long time at the crossroads of three Powers' influence, Russian, Persian and Turkish.

The Construction of Russian forts, known as the Caucasian line, started during Empress Anna Ioannovna's reign, in the first half of the 18th century. The forts were not so much built to subjugate the mountain clans, as to defend and protect southern sea routes and guarantee steady contacts with Georgia, Russia's principal Transcaucasian ally. Georgia, a Christian country, voluntarily joined Russia after signing a treaty, known as the Georgievsk Tract in 1783. With that, Chechnya was geographically incorporated into the Russian Empire along with the entire North Caucasus

As the 1829 Peace of Adrianople settled, in the main, disputes concerning the Russo-Turkish and Russo-Persian frontiers, a greater part of Armenia and Azerbaijan were also incorporated into Russia. An essential route from Central Russia to Transcaucasia crossed Chechnya.

How did the Russian nation's proximity influence Chechnya over the centuries?

Links with Russia had a great impact on the formation of a social Chechen entity. Vainakh contacts with Russians and with Russia started as early as from the 7th to 9th century as the mountain peoples and Russian principalities fought against the Hazar Khanate. Russians and Caucasian highlanders repulsed nomad raids together in the 11th century, and fought the Mongol-Tartar invaders side-by-side in the 13th century. Traders, Russian military officers, and the first Russian academics to appear in the Caucasus made a huge contribution to the rapprochement of the Russian and Chechen nations in the 18th century. Close commercial relations began to emerge between Russians and Chechens.

West European and other written sources from that period refer to North Caucasians' eagerness to acquire a working command of the Russian language. Many members of Caucasian mountain communities became Russian subjects of their own free will, the Chechens and Ingushes being no exception.

True, the geographic closeness of Russians and Chechens had its dark side, as well. However, all conflicts receded into the background when the entire country was in danger.

Many Chechen military officers and privates valiantly fought in the Napoleonic War of 1812. In the final analysis, even the Caucasian War of 1817-1864 did not undermine mutual public sympathies, though it was a dramatic period in the history of Russian-Chechen contacts

The Soviet era brought Chechnya sweeping economic progress. From the country's poverty-stricken outskirts, the republic turned into an area of developed industry and farming, suffice it to say that the seven Soviet decades increased Chechen industrial output more than hundred-fold. Thousands of ethnic Russian experts trained Chechen personnel, virtually from scratch. They not only helped to organise production, but also eliminated illiteracy among the local population.

How many ethnic Russians lived in Chechnya before the Dudayev regime came to power in 1991?

There were 294,000 Russians in Chechnya, according to the 1989 population census. Russians were the second-largest ethnic entity in the republic. However, militant separatists launched what amounted to a Russian genocide campaign in the early 1990s.

The lucky ones who were not executed or taken captivity fled the rebellious republic to the nearest Russian regions. Not only Russians but many other ethnic entities in Chechnya met a tragic fate then.

CHAPTER 2: CHECHEN CRISIS: MAIN EVENTS.

There is the opinion that the current Chechen crisis is largely the outcome of the Chechens' tragic past in tsarist and then Soviet Russia. Is it true?

Indeed, there were dismal periods in the history of this people. The Chechens suffered enormous losses in the Caucasian war of 1817-1864 which resulted in the Russian army's triumph at the cost of 77,000 lives of its soldiers and officers.

Stalin-era purges that swept the entire country in the 1930s also affected the local clergy, professionals and those peasants who refused to join imposed collective farms. In 1944, about 430,000 Chechens and 100,000 Ingushes were deported to Kazakhstan and Central Asia on charges of collaborating with Nazi occupiers. However, 1957 saw the restoration of the Chechen-Ingush autonomous republic integrated in Russia and the return of the vainakhs (Nakh language-speakers) to their historical fatherland. The three decades that followed were marked by the construction of about 200 oil extraction facilities and refineries, power plants, engineering works and light and food industry mills, while the city of Grozny became the seat of three higher educational establishments. Considerable additional funds for the social and economic development of Checheno-Ingushetia were alloted by the federal government in March 1991.

To all appearances, the Chechens had little reason to nurse any grudge against Moscow in the years of perestroika, especially after drastic reforms had been launched. The year 1989 was remarkable for a Chechen native becoming person No.1 in the republic for the first time in many years; his compatriots then assumed most official posts in the republic. Ruslan Khasbulatov, a Chechen, was elected Speaker of the Supreme Soviet of the then Russian Federation in 1991, while Salambek Khadjiev was a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Soviet Minister for the Chemical and Oil-Refining Industry. The dancer Makhmud Esambaev and other Chechens figured amid the country's artistic and intellectual elite

In 1991, the Russian parliament passed a law, "On the Rehabilitation of Repressed Peoples". The Stalinist regime's illegal acts against the Chechens, Ingushes and some other North Caucasian peoples were again condemned while the law provided for specific measures to eliminate the consequences of the deportation and to assist the region's social and economic development. On the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the end of the Caucasian war, President Boris Yeltsin issued a special address to the North Caucasian peoples, analysing the negative aspects of the Moscow policy in the past. He called upon the inhabitants of the region to pool their efforts in a bid to achieve regional prosperity within the framework of a single democratic federation. The Dudayev regime, which seized power in Chechnya in the early 1990s, openly ignored the wide opportunities opening for the free development of the Chechen people within the Russian Federation. Contrary to the interests and aspirations of the majority of Chechen residents, the Dudayev clique took a separatist, anti-Russian path trying to de-stabilise the entire situation in the Northern Caucasus.

Isn't the federal centre to blame for the separatists' coming to power in Chechnya?

It goes without saying that neither the Soviet nor the Russian leadership made a conscious effort to encourage this outcome, though, admittedly, there were mistakes and the separatists took advantage of them. Among those who did instigate Dudayev's isolationist and power ambitions from the end of the 1980s were, above all, like-minded leaders of separatist movements in the Baltic republics. It is worth remembering that Major-General Djokhar Dudayev was then commander of a bomber aviation division in Tartu, Estonia, moving to Grozny in the summer of 1990 after he left the Soviet Army. His separatist moods were inflamed by Islamic chauvinists like Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who promoted him to the leaders of the National Congress of the Chechen People in June 1991

The "rebellious general" seemed to benefit most of all from political struggle that broke out in the country two months after the suppression of the Moscow putsch. Moreover, in May 1992, the then Russian military leadership met the separatists' demands to withdraw a Russian army garrison in Grozny from the republic. The hasty evacuation left Dudayev quite a considerable amount of armaments, hardware and ammunition: over 25 tanks, about 30 armoured personnel carriers, over 80 guns and mortars and about 40,000 small arms.

There is the belief that Dudayev was exploited to topple the local Communist apparatchiks in Checheno-Ingushetia, led by Doku Zavgayev. Besides, Khasbulatov and other members of the federal government turned a blind eye to the Dudayev clique's separatist intentions...

True. Though the federal centre outlawed the elections of a new president and parliament staged by Dudayev in October 1991 as well as his decree of November 1, 1991, "On the Declaration of the Sovereignty of the Chechen Republic", the policy of appeasing the Chechen separatists continued, Moscow spent the following three years trying to come to a peaceful agreement with Dudayev who responded with a wave violence against the republic's civilians. About 40,000 people, chiefly Russians, fled the republic from January to June 1992 in an attempt to escape the extremists' brutality which in the first year of Dudayev's rule claimed the lives of at least 5,000 innocent people. Chechnya provided shelter for over 1,200 criminals, including terrorists led by Shamil Basayev, who had hijacked a passenger plane from the Mineralniye Vody airport in November 1991. Dudayev assumed command of armed formations with a strength of up to 30,000 locals. About 6,000 foreign mercenaries were recruited. The separatists worked out an operation, named "Swallow", aimed at masterminding acts of sabotage on Russian territory, including aerial bombing.

As the insurgent general ignored all the warnings from the federal centre, Boris Yeltsin issued decrees, "On Measures to Restore Constitutional Law and Order On the Territory of the Chechen Republic" dated November 29, 1994 and "On Measures to Put an End to the Activities of Illegal Armed Formations On the Territory of the Chechen Republic and In the Zone of Ossetian-Ingush Conflict" dated December 9, 1994.

Why did Moscow sign the Khasavyurt Agreements with the separatist Chechen leadership in August 1996?

Let's begin by restoring the chronology of events. The operation of the federal forces began in Chechnya on December 11, 1994. They stormed Grozny in the night of December 31/January 1, 1995. By mid-March the Dudayev administration had to spread the remaining groups of their troops in the mountain regions of South Chechnya, which maintained fierce resistance.

By late March 1995 local self-governments, law enforcement agencies and the National Revival Government operatedin a considerable part of Chechnya. A National Accord Committee of Chechnya led by Umar Avturkhanov was set up to draft the republican constitution and normative acts on free elections. At the same time, a conference on national accordand reconciliation for Chechnya was held in Pyatigorsk. Representatives of nearly all Chechen teips (clans), eldersand respected religious figures attended the conferenceand approved the National Accord Charter for Chechnya.

On April 12, 1995 the State Duma adopted a federal law"On Provisional Measures for the Political Settlement of the Crisis in the Chechen Republic," which actually formalised a planfor the gradual peaceful settlement of the crisis.

However, these measures were not brought to their logical conclusion. The main reason for this was the separatists' unwillingness to negotiate, supported by their Western sponsors who provided millions dollars a year to the Dudayev regime.

Bandit groups led by Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev seized hospitals with thousands of hostages in Budennovskin June 1995 and in Kizlyar in January 1996. Nearly 200 civilians and servicemen died in those terrorist attacks.

Eventually, the Russian leaders came to think - contraryto the opinion of politicians and military - that the federal centre should distance oneself from the Chechen problemfor some time, giving Chechens a chance to settle their problems independently.

Was that view encouraged by the fact that separatist leader Dudayevwas killed by a pinpoint missile strikein April 1996?

One way or another, but in summer 1996 Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed, acting on behalf of Boris Yeltsin who had been elected president for a second term, and Aslan Maskhadov, who represented the Chechen separatist leaders, signed an agreement in the Dagestani village of Khasavyurt.

The document was titled "On Principles of Determining the Basis for Relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic." It was expected to settle these relations "in accordance with generally recognised norms and principles of international law," rather than on the basis of the Russian Constitution, which was not even mentioned in the agreement. In other words, it was Russia's de facto recognition of Chechen independence.

One more mistake was Moscow's agreement to pull all federal groups of forces out of Chechnya in late 1996. And what was the price of these mistakes?

In short, the separatist regime in Chechnya deteriorated into an openly bandit and terrorist regime with regardto the Chechen people and the rest of Russia, which forcedthe federal centre to launch the second Chechen campaign.

The year 1997 began in Chechnya with presidential elections monitored by a group of 60 OSCE representatives. Despitethe low turnout of the voters, Aslan Maskhadov, former chiefof staff of the illegal Chechen formations, won 59.3%of the vote and was elected president of the republic.

At that time the federal centre pinned its hopeson that ex-colonel of the Soviet Army. Compared to the exalted Dudayev, Aslan Maskhadov seemed a balanced and reasonable man. This is why Boris Yeltsin and Maskhadov met in the Kremlinon May 12, 1997 to sign "The Treaty of Peace and Principlesof Relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria."

To a degree, the treaty amended the Khasavyurt document, with its de facto recognition of Chechnya as a subjectof international law. And yet it did not altogether remove ambiguity, because even despite the so-called delayed statusof Chechnya the republic was put on a legal parwith the federation while remaining its constituent part.

So the separatist regime did not dreamof giving up its claims?

Exactly. During the visit of Aslan Maskhadov to Moscowin August 1997, the newly elected Chechen president offered for Boris Yeltsin's consideration a draft full-format treaty that would recognise Chechnya as an independent state.A Chechen delegation confirmed this attitude a month later,at talks in Dagomys held to prepare for signing of a political treaty, and thus ruined the talks at their very beginning.

At the same time Maskhadov's team demanded from Russia 25.8 billion dollars as "compensation for many years of war against the Chechen people."

In turn, the federal centre continued the tactic of "playing" with the separatists while simultaneously trying to win overthe Chechen population. Until the summer of 1999 the federal authorities provided financial and material resourcesto the Maskhadov administration for the payment of pensions, wages and benefits. But the common people never sawa kopeck of that money, which was embezzled or usedto finance illegal armed formations.

In the three years of arbitrary rule, the Chechen regime brought the republic to economic collapse, hunger, complete destruction of the social and spiritual areas, and open genocide against non-Chechen ethnic groups who had lived in Chechnya. Over 250,000 people fled the republic in that period and hundreds of thousands lost their jobs. Public executions were staged in Chechen squares. Kidnapping turned into a profitable business controlled by the Maskhadov regime.

It involved over 60 armed criminal gangs with over 2,500 members. By the summer of 1999 up to 1,200 people, including small children and foreign nationals, were being held hostage in Chechnya. Videotapes show horribly well what the kidnappers did to their victims.

Is it true that Chechnya also became the transshipment point for arms?

And not only arms at that. Drugs were delivered from Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan to the Baltic countries, Britain, Spain and other European countries via Chechnya. A statement made by the Justice Ministry of Russia also says there were four heroin factories in Chechnya. It was against that criminal background that Chechen separatism changed completely. Religious extremists and bandits from all over the world, suchas Khattab the Black Arab, pursued their ideological and aggressive goals in Chechnya, goals that had nothing to do with the interests of the Chechen people. The republic was assigned the role of a bridgehead for the implementation of their ambitious plans to create a feudal caliphate on the territory between the Black and the Caspian seas.

What did Maskhadov do?

He now called for the terrorists to be eliminated and now appointed them his deputies, as was the case with Basayev, an agent of the Muslim Brothers international terrorist organization who was appointed vice-premier and even acting premier in 1998. Maskhadov himself organized bandit raids - and denounced the executors when such acts failed.

It was with his silent consent that a direct invasion of neighboring Dagestan was undertaken in the autumn of 1999 and a series of bombings targeting residential blocks were staged in Moscow and several other cities of Russia, claiming nearly 300 lives.

"It was Maskhadov who pushed Russia and Chechnya to war," President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Chechen representatives in the Kremlin on November 10, 2002. And "there will be no second Khasavyurt," he added.

THE COUNTER-TERRORIST OPERATION IN CHECHNYA

Will you describe hostilities at the initial stage of the counter-terrorist operationin Chechnya? What tasks did the terrorist have? And who led them?

The counter-terrorist operation of the Russian forces in the North Caucasus began in the first few days of August 1999, whenthe first groups of Chechen bandits invaded Dagestan.

The commanders of the invasion were Shamil Basayev, who had led the raid on Budennovsk, and Khattab, who was fairly unknown at the time but who collaborated with the international terrorist bin Laden. Their main goal was to occupy Makhachkala and advance to the Caspian Sea.

It transpired that shortly before the invasion the so-called presidium of the Caucasian Home for the liberation of Chechnya and Dagestan, led by Movladi Udugov, the Basayev brothers and the Khachilayev brothers, approved a plan fora revolt in Makhachkala. Under it, the bandits planned to seize the Dagestani capital on August 5-8, 1999, split it into zones of responsibility between field commanders, take hostages and present an ultimatum to the republican government, forcing it to resign. In the early morning of August 7, convoys of heavy-freight KamAZ lorries carrying about2,000 well-armed militants moved from Chechnya into Dagestan. There were not only Chechens, but also a large number of foreign mercenaries among them. Local Wahhabites soon joined them.

They seized several villages in the Botlikh and Novolaksk districts and hastened to proclaim an Islamic state on the territory they had occupied.

What did the federal authorities do? What measures did they take?

That open aggression launched by Chechen separatists was a serious challenge to the central authorities. If the united extremists attained their goals, Russia would have been cutoff from the Transcaucasus. The terrorists would have dictated conditions to Moscow. In a completely new geopolitical situation they would have continued to take hostages, carry out bandit raids and bombings in outdoor markets and terminals.

But the resolve of the Russian authorities and heroism of menand officers cut short the aggression. The terrorists' planswere foiled.

The Dagestani people did not supportthe plans of armed Wahhabites.

Units of promptly created Dagestani volunteers and local police repelled the initial attack of the extremists. General mobilisation was announced in the republic. Magomedali Magomedov, Chairman of the State Council of Dagestan, said that"each Dagestani citizen must become a defender and a scout"and the people accepted these words as a call to arms.

This convinced the bandits that they would not be able to rally the support of the bulk of the local population.

Can you provide examples when the local population resisted the bandits?

I know a case when 40 Dagestani policemen and Lipetsk OMON for three days fought an overwhelming group of bandits who had encircled them, while volunteers and local police led by Colonel Khadzhimurat Kurakhmanov fought their way to their rescue. Using armoured vehicles that came to their help, the police broke out of the encirclement and linked up with the main group of federal forces.

Army units were quickly dispatched to Dagestan from other regions of Russia. Local volunteers frequently fought the bandits side by side with regular troops.

How did the operation to liberate Dagestan from the invaders end?

Resolute actions by the federal forces ousted the invaders back to Chechnya by the end of August. After that the Russian group of forces was charged with eliminating the Wahhabites who had entrenched themselves in several villages of Central Dagestan and controlled them for many months.

But the bandits regrouped and dispatched a force of about 2,000 to deliver one more strike at Dagestan. After a week of heavy fighting, army units and Interior Ministry troops finally defeated the bandits. Since then they have not tried to invade the republic in large groups.

Why was the thrust of the federal forces shifted to Chechnya? And what happened after that?

The Russian leadership took the decision to shift the fighting to Chechnya after explosions in Moscow and several other cities in South Russia claimed hundreds of lives in September 1999. It was the bandits' revenge for their defeat in Dagestan.

On September 14 federal aviation delivered strikes against over 100 strategic facilities in Chechnya. The ground operation began on September 30 with the aim of seizingthe commanding heights on the border.

By late October the Russian forces assumed control over a third of the republican territories and gradually advanced towards Grozny. At the same time, the army command clearly showed that it would not repeat the mistakes of the first Chechen campaign. It was decided to carry on the operation untilall the bandits are destroyed.

The fiercest battles were fought for control of Grozny. What were the specific features of that operation?

The active phase of the operation to liquidate bandit groupsin the republic's capital began in late December 1999. We used the principle of gradually squeezing banditsout of the city, with the active use of aviation and artillery,which greatly reduced federal losses.

Operation Wolf Hunt held on February 1, 2000 was unprecedented in scale. Several thousand bandits were lured out of the city and stumbled into a minefield, losing about 1,500 men. There were several prominent field commanders among the dead and bandit leader Shamil Basayev was seriously wounded and eventually lost a leg. But the bandits were not eliminated. A considerable number of them fled the city...

Only Ruslan Gelayev's group did but was soon blockaded in the village of Komsomolskoye. Some 800 bandits were subsequently killed in a storm operation, while Gelayev deserted his troops, for which he was demoted from brigade general to private.

How did you rout large groups of bandits?

After suffering defeat in the flatlands, the bandits fled to the mountains where they planned to become entrenched and later raid the towns and villages where federal troops were deployed. To prevent this, the Russian border guards and airborne units sent a landing group to the south of the Argun Gorge in Itum-Kali in late December 1999. They cut off the channels of weapons deliveries to the bandits from Georgia and retreat roads and passes.

At the same time, groups of Chechen bandits in the Vedeno District were cut off from the main forces. The bandits failed to eliminate the landing group. In February 2000 an operation was launched to squeeze them from the mountains to the flatlands, where they encountered federal forces armed with heavy weaponry and equipment. The situation for the bandits became critical. Large groups were liquidated and small ones could no longer stage serious resistance, which is why they turned to guerrilla warfare, mining roads, staging explosions in the deployment sites of the federal forces and terrorist attacks against Russian servicemen and local authorities.

Do you know how many bandits continue fighting the federal forces?

According to available information, the scattered groups of bandits have a total of about 1,000 men. But there are some 4,000 bandits who live in the disguise of peaceful civilians in many Chechen villages and towns.

What can you say about the specific features of the counter-terrorist operation in the current conditions?

A decision had been made to withdraw our excessive troops from Chechnya, but the process was halted after the group of Movsar Barayev seized hostages in the Dubrovka theatre center in Moscow in October 2002. Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has said selective pinpoint strikes would be delivered at bandits and their bases in Chechnya.

This calls for harder work by reconnaissance and special units, for ending the practice of aviation and artillery strikes at settlements and for scourging the areas where bandits are found. A stricter regime is to be established, especially in the area of federal deployment sites.

What are the border guards' tasks in the fight against terrorists?

Bandits regularly attempt to break into Russia from Georgia and the border guards' tasks are to isolate the areas of the counter-terrorist operations close to the state border and expose and stop the channels of financial and material-technical assistance to the bandits from abroad. This is why the units of the Argun Border Group have assumed control of the more than 80 km-long Russo-Georgian border.

We have also reinforced control at checkpoints on Russia's border with Georgia and Azerbaijan.

What are the federal authorities doing to strengthen security on the southern borders of Russia?

The Russian leadership knows very well that half-measures cannot defeat terrorism. In accordance with the instructions of President Vladimir Putin, a comprehensive plan has been elaborated to strengthen the state border, in particular the border with Georgia and Azerbaijan. We will begin by improving technical equipment on that part of the border, where a larger group of border guards has been deployed than on any other part of the border. In other words, there are 3-4 more border guards per kilometer than elsewhere.

In October 2002 the border guard commanders of Russia and Georgia signed a protocol on stabilising the situation on the Russo-Georgian border. It provides, in part, for the joint patrolling of vital areas by Russian and Georgian border guards.

The protocol was precipitated by the agreements reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze at the recent CIS summit in Chisinau and is designed above all to stop Chechen bandits from crossing the border.

A decision was recently taken to create and deploy by March 2003 an additional border group to protect the most vulnerable mountain areas of the Russo-Georgian border.

What is the current strength of the federal forces in Chechnya?

As of late December 2002, there are 80,000 troops in the joint group of Russian forces in Chechnya. The group includes the 42nd Motorised Division deployed in the republic permanently, the only all-arms formation in Russia to have a wartime strength of up to 15,000 men and officers. The division's strike units are the 70th, the 71st, the 72nd and the 291st motorised regiments and the 50th self-propelled artillery regiment.

Moreover, regimental and battalion tactical groups from different military districts of Russia, totalling about 22,000 servicemen, are dispatched to Chechnya on a rotation basis. The 3,000 Airborne troops constitute the best and most combat ready element of the Joint Group of Forces.

The 46th Brigade of the Interior Troops, which has 10,000 servicemen instead of the traditional 3,000, has also been deployed in Chechnya on a permanent basis. And thereare 10,000 border guards deployed on the Russo-Georgian border. OMON (special force) and SOBR (rapid deployment) police units of the Interior Ministry are dispatched to Chechnya from different regions of Russia for a term of three to six months. Over 10,000 policemen and servicemen of the Interior Troops are deployed in the commandant offices in all large villages of Chechnya.

How many casualties have the sides suffered so far?

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the federal forces suffered 3,770 dead and 12,796 wounded in October 1999to March 2002. Over 14,000 bandits have been killed and over 29,000 wounded during the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya. Since the beginning of 2002, the Joint Group of Forces and the FSB of Russia have liquidated about 1,000 bandits.

Can you provide vivid examples of courage and heroism of federal servicemen?

In late February 2000 a group of Khattab's militants attemptedto break into Dagestan in the area of Ulus-Kert.

Our intelligence learnt about this and in the early morning of February 28 the 6th Company of the 104th Regiment of the Pskov Airborne Division led by Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Yevtyukhin was dispatched to intercept the bandits. They engaged them several kilometres outside Ulus-Kert but they were fighting against odds. More and more Chechen bandits rallied in the area and Yevtyukhin made the only correct decision to retreat to the nearest hill.

For several hours until dusk the Pskov servicemen fought the bandits. The battle continued next morning when the remaining few Russian paratroopers fought a hand-to-hand battle. As many as 84 paratroopers died in the battle, but they killed about 500 bandits. It later transpired that nearly 2,500 bandits took part in that engagement.

And here is another example. Border guard Yevgeny Rodionov was wounded and taken prisoner. He was promised life if he adopted Islam and took part in executing other POWs.

For four months they subjected Yevgeny to severe beatings and torture in an attempt to break his will. But the boy from Podolsk outside Moscow refused to comply. He was brutally executed on his 19th birthday.

Private Rodionov was awarded the Order of Courage (posthumously) and the Russian Orthodox Church has raised the issue of making him an official martyred saint.

In the years of fighting in Chechnya, thousands of Russian men and officers have been awarded state decorations, including 126 who were granted the title of Hero of Russia during the first Chechen campaign, 134 who received the title during the second campaign and 126 who became Heroes of Russia in both campaigns posthumously.

But common peaceful Chechens also act as heroes...Magomed Tashukhadzhiyev, a 16-year old school boy from Grozny, died protecting his family and home from bandits.

His father, Saidi Tashukhadzhiyev, was a senior lieutenantand deputy head of the police station at the Zavodskoi district department of the Interior Ministry in Grozny.

The bandits stormed into the house when Saidi Tashukhadzhiyev was talking with his colleague, Rasul Khabuseyev. They killed both men. Magomed, who heard the shots, snatched his father's gun and killed the bandits. They were prominent field commanders Magomed Tsagarayev and Akhmed Tashayev. But the boy was mortally wounded in the shootout. He was granted the title of Hero of Russia posthumously.

One more Chechen hero is Musa Akhmadov. Bandits staged a terrorist act planning to blow up a lorry with explosives in the territory of the Moscow police group in Gudermes.

Musa saw the KamAZ driver shoot a sergeant of the Chechen traffic police, who tried to stop him, and warned the police about the attack. The police had the time to prepare and riddled with bullets the lorry 40 metres from the entranceto their territory.

It is a fact that other ethnic groups livingin the Caucasus help the federal forces.

One of the better known incidents of this kind is the caseof Levan Telidze from the small Georgian village of Cherevi.

He risked his life to warn Russian border guards about a groupof Chechen bandits moving from the Pankisi Gorge towards the Russian border. The border guards ambushed the bandits, 30 of whom, including their commander Khasan, were killed, while another 13 retreated into Georgia and were detained there. Levan Telidze was recently awarded the Order of Courage.

Forty-three residents of Dagestan, who represent allthe 14 ethnic groups of that republic, were awarded orders and medals for heroism in repelling the aggression of Chechen bandit groups in August 1999.

What was the reaction of Chechen residents to the hostage standoff in the Dubrovka theatre centre in Moscow in late October 2002?

Terrorist accomplices rejoiced, but peaceful civilians staged numerous actions in the Nadterechny, Gorny, Shatoi and other districts of the republic, as well as in Grozny and Gudermesto denounce the crimes of the terrorists. Demonstrations were held in three higher educational establishments in Grozny. Students and teachers pointed out that such actions could only aggravate the atmosphere in the republic and the situationof common people.

Chechens working in the culture and arts spheres were outraged by the treacherous act. They held a republican conference where they adopted a statement, stating that they, like all the Chechen nation, expressed their sympathyfor the hostages.

Akhmar Zavgayev, Chechen representative in the Federation Council of Russia, welcomed the decision to eliminatethe terrorists in the Dubrovka centre. "It will be a severe lesson for those who attempt to carry out similar terrorist actsin Moscow or other cities," he said.

The Council of Muftis of Russia issued a statement supporting the decision of the Russian authorities to storm the building, describing it as "the only possible and correct one."

EXTERNAL FACTOR

Has the attitude of the world community to Moscow's counter-terrorist operation against Chechen militantschanged after the hostage standoff in Moscow in October 2002?

Double standards in the attitude to terrorism are inadmissible. For a long time, the West, in particular the USA, did not see Chechen bandits as terrorists. They were described as fighters for the freedom and independence of Ichkeria and their actions, as liberation struggle. They even disregardedthe bombings of residential blocks in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Buinaksk in 1999, which claimed hundreds of lives.

Sessions of PACE and other international organisations frequently accused Moscow of disproportionate use of military force in Chechnya and justified the bandits' actions.

All the while, it was clear that those "freedom fighters" killed and tortured innocent people (including Chechens) and took hostages (including foreigners). Arbi Barayev, a closer relativeof Movsar Barayev who led the terrorist operationin the Dubrovka theatre centre, is guilty of kidnapping and decapitating four members of a Western telecommunications company - one New Zealander and three British nationals.

Yet it was regarded bon ton in the West to accuse Russia, which was actually fighting international terrorism single-handedly.

The moment of truth came with the tragedy in Moscow in late October 2002. US Ambassador in Moscow Alexander Vershbow said then that the USA and Russia stood together, shared the same values and should protect them together.

The Los Angeles Times wrote that the October terrorist actin Moscow put Chechen bandits in the same ranks with bin Laden and, consequently, the war in Chechnya, in the same ranks with other links in the global war against international terrorism.

How did the October terrorist act in Moscowchange the world's attitudeto Aslan Maskhadov?

The tragedy in Moscow, which claimed 129 lives, certainly changed the general attitude to Aslan Maskhadov and his regime. A ranking US official denounced the Chechen leader as rotten stuff. The interview which Movsar Barayev, leader of the terrorists who took hostages in the Dubrovka theatre centre, gave to Sunday Times' Marc Franchetti is highly indicative. It indicates that Maskhadov knew about the planned terrorist act in Moscow. This supposition is confirmed by a videotape broadcast by the Al Jazeera TV channel in Qatar,where Maskhadov says: "I do not doubt that at the final stage we will hold a unique operation, which will change the course of the Chechen war and liberate Chechnya from the Russian aggressors."

The Los Angeles Times wrote that the man who the USA viewed as the main representative of Chechnya at possible peace talks with Russia lost his role and found himself in total isolation.

The USA no longer regards him as the chief negotiator because he failed to dissociate himself from terrorists and terrorism.

There are still quite a few foreign mercenaries in Chechnya who actively fight against the federal forces.Are you succeeding in breaking their resistance?

The largest of the liquidated bandit training centres wasthe so-called Khattab camp. Neither the camp nor Khattab exist now. Who was that mercenary leader? And who has takenhis place?

Khattab was killed in late March 2002 in an FSB intelligence operation in a southern district of Chechnya. Khattab, who leda large group of foreign mercenaries, was notoriously cruelto prisoners and preferred to kill them with a knife. He received money from some non-governmental organisations in the Middle East to be distributed among mercenaries

The mercenaries are now led by the "Black Arab's" deputy,a Saudi national Abu al-Walid, who maintains contacts with the leadership of the Moslem Brothers international terrorist organisation and tackles financial and information-propaganda issues.

How do foreign mercenaries get into Chechnya? And how many of them are there now?

Until recently, only a quarter of the bandits were Chechens, while the rest came from foreign countries. These extremists reached Chechnya through the "transparent" borders of the former Soviet Union. Law enforcers detained citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Turkey during fighting in Dagestan and Chechnya. In all, there were mercenaries from over 25 countries in bandit groups in Chechnya. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, until recently there was at least a score of centres in Afghanistan and Pakistan that trained Chechen militants, and similar camps were located in Albania, Lebanon and the Moslem part of Bosnia. Over 60 extremist Islamic organisations from 30 foreign and CIS countries, as well as about a hundred firms and ten bank groups provided assistance to the illegal armed formations in Chechnya.

The situation with mercenaries radically changed thanks to the successful operation of the federal forces.

The FSB department for Chechnya reports that there are only about 200 foreign mercenaries in Chechnya now,while the figure the year before was several times larger.

Can you cite examples of support provided by foreign extremist structures to Chechen separatists?

The numerous extremist organisations act in two ways.

They either organise direct armed intervention by dispatching foreign mercenaries to Chechnya, or use missionary and propaganda methods to brainwash the local population.

The main goal of the latter form of operation is to stir up separatist sentiments in the Moslem regions of Russia and encourage them to secede from the Federation. It has been established that Moslem Brothers has a network in over 60 countries with headquarters in Britain and several other European countries. Its envoys coordinate their actions with al-Qaeda,al-Gamaa al Islamiya, and Islamic Jihad.

The extremists have established channels for the provision of foreign financial and other assistance to the illegal Chechen formations via Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. We expose and liquidate these channels. Since August 1999 and to this day we have exposed and deported from Russia seven envoys of the Moslem Brothers.

In the airport of Nalchik we detaineda cargo that included radio communication, television equipment and dual-purpose computer equipment. A convoy of armoured cross-country jeeps heading to Khattab militants via Georgia was detained at the Verkhni Lars checkpoint. Attempts were frequently made to create a secret network of Moslem Brother cells, camouflaged as charity organisations and funds in the former Soviet republics. The list includesthe Russian branch of the non-governmental Saudi organisation Al Igasa (Islamic Relief), the Kuwaiti Social Reforms Societyand the Islamic Heritage Revival Society, and the International Development Corporation. These organisations accumulated and distributed funds between branches. Russian citizens were recruited for training in Islamic centres in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other countries without the approval of the official religious organisations of Russia. The students experienced five to seven years of continuous brainwashing in these schools and returned to Russia as fanatical and militant adepts of the ideas of Islamic fundamentalism. It is such students that became leaders and key figures in the branches of the aforementioned organisations.

Can you provide examples of a connection between Chechen militants and al-Qaeda?

When al-Qaeda was created in the late 1990s, Khattab,a compatriot and loyal friend of bin Laden, became its regional representative in the North Caucasus and the rest of Russia.

In June 1999 bin Laden visited Khattab's training centre Said ibn Abu Waqqas outside Urus-Martan in Chechnya. Witnesses say that he was satisfied with the training standards and promised lavish rewards after the raid on Dagestan scheduled for August 1999. As you know, Khattab's Dagestani operation failed dismally. But it later transpired that bin Laden's strategists envisaged this variant and planned to use it as a pretextfor punishing Moscow by staging terrorist acts with the useof aircraft and suicide-hijackers.

Al-Qaeda member Munir el Motassadeq later said during a trial in Hamburg that the suicide-hijackers were later usedin the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Al-Qaeda's connection with Chechen bandits has also been confirmedby other sources, including high-ranking ones. I have information about connection between Chechen terrorists who took hostages in Moscow on October 23-26, 2002 in Moscow and al-Qaeda, said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, said about the terrorist act thatal-Qaeda's connections had been found in many regions of the world, including in Chechnya.

How many "Ichkerian embassies" and other organisations represent Aslan Maskhadov, Shamil Basayev and Movladi Udugov abroad? What is their role in rallying material, financial, moral and other supportfor Chechen terrorists?

There are (or were, until recently) Ichkerian missions in Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Britain, Poland, the Czech republic, Holland, Georgia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. The Azerbaijani authorities have recently decided to close the Chechen Culture Centre, which acted as the mission of Ichkeria, in Baku.

After the October terrorist act in Moscow, the Russian authorities demanded that Turkey close the offices of Chechen separatists. "We have irrefutable proof of the fact thatthe Chechen bandits who took hostages in Moscow had telephone conversations with their accomplices [abroad], including in Turkey," said Russian Ambassador in Ankara Alexander Lebedev. According to him, one of the organisations that maintained regular contacts with Movsar Barayev's group is the Solidarity Committee of Caucasian Chechens headquartered in Turkey.

The head of the "office of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria" in Georgia still enjoys free access to the local media, which circulates his anti-Russian statements. In addition to information work, the "office" plays a vital role in receiving and distributing financial and humanitarian assistance, a considerable part of which is embezzled. The office has an information structure, the Chechen Inform Centre, which uses its Internet site for waging an information war against Russia. The leaders of the Georgian Ministry of State Security hinted that they needed the Georgian authorities to take a political decision to stop the operation of Chechen information structures. There is other proof that these "centres," "offices" and "embassies" of the self-proclaimed Ichkeria use the cover of humanitarian, peacekeeping and charity activities for acquiring material and financial assistance to Chechen bandits.

Russia supported the US-ledcounter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. Was it a kind of payment designed to soften Western criticism of Moscow's use of forcein Chechnya?

Russia joined the international counter-terror coalition because it is fully aware of the danger coming from international terrorism. In doing this Moscow was guided by the long-term interests of the international community and national interests, rather than by time-serving considerations. So, there was no "payment," the more so that the stand of many Western countries on the Chechen problem is still based on double standards. There have been some positive changes and now Western countries can hardly refute the fact that there are terrorists in Chechnya and that Russia has the right to fight them. But the West still divides terrorists into "bad" and "good" ones, denouncing the former and very nearly justifying the actions of the latter.

CHAPTER 3: REABILITATION OF CHECHNYA

THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SPHERE

How are Chechen refugees returning home?

More than half a million of the republic's population have fled their homes since 1999, due to the military operations and overall instability, and threats from Chechen terrorists. People are starting to return home as life is getting back to normal in Chechnya. This, for the most part, concerns refugees from other partsof the republic. More than 180,000 people have returned to Chechnya since 2000 up to the present day, including over 85,000 from Ingushetia. Significantly, this return home is purely voluntary. Nevertheless, 360,000 were in temporary shelter in and outside Chechnya in the middle of 2002. Neighbouring Ingushetia hosts the largest refugee community, numbering more than 100,000. Some are in refugee camps, others have rented accommodation. The federal budget makes the necessary allocations, including for food purchases and deliveries.

The creation of 120,000 new jobs within the last two years has become another impetus for refugees to return.

Jobs are offered mainly in agricultural sphere - but not only there. The construction is developing rapidly, employing more than 40,000 in 2002, as against 10,000 the previous year. Another 30,000 people will find employment in the near future,according to the Chechen Government. Another 150,000 receive unemployment benefits.

The return of refugees is closely linkedto the reconstruction of housingin Chechnya. What is the situationin this area?

According to the Federal State Construction Committee's statistics,a total of 1,645 residential blocks - 1,634 private and 11 municipal, with a total floor space exceeding 320,000 square metres - were commissioned from January to December 2002. Grozny, Argun, Gudermes and the village of Sernovodskayaare offering good conditions for the return of refugees.

Repairs and fitting have been completed in 15 newly-started temporary accommodation centres to cater for an approximate 14,000 people.

All told, the federal targeted programme for the economicand social rehabilitation of the Chechen Republic envisagesthe restoration of 4,550 private blocks and 2,630 municipal flats, with a total floor space exceeding 500,000 sq m,in 2002 and 2003.

It is an open secret that many refugees are in fear of their lives and so are reluctant to return. Indeed, one of the biggest problems keeping people from returning is the instability and explosive situation due to continuing terrorist attacks. Suffice it to mention the terrorist attack of December 27, 2002, when a suicide bomber outside the Chechen republican government premises took 82 lives and injured 153. It is up to the law-enforcement bodies to improve the situation. Other government agencies, including the Federal Migration Service of the Interior Ministry, are doing all they can to promote the return of refugees to Chechnya. In particular, the real number of refugees is being established, and they are being re-registered. The readiness of temporary accommodation centres is being checked for the returning refugees, and steps are being taken to provide them normal conditions. The first issue of the newspaper Migratsionny Vestnik (Migration Herald) came out in July 2002 as a special weekly supplement to the magazine, Migratsia i Grazhdanstvo (Migration and Citizenship). The Federal Migration Service established the newspaper to provide refugees with objective information about accommodation in particular cities and districts, the progress of construction, employment and educational opportunities, as well as the payment of social and other benefits.

As we know, Grozny, the republic's capital, suffered the worst in the two Chechen military campaigns. When can we expect it to be rebuilt?

Grozny really accounts for 70% of war damage to the Chechen economy, according to the government commission on social and economic recovery of the Chechen Republic. 66% of the city's houses are damaged, 28% of them totally destroyed. The urban engineering infrastructure was almost fully incapacitated. The equipmentof electric substations, boilers, water intakes, pumping stations and purification facilities has been destroyed or pilfered almost completely. A general plan is being drafted for the reconstruction of the Chechen capital. If work proceeds at the scheduled pace and terrorists do not demolish what has been repaired, a modern city will rise again in a matter of six or seven years. That will be an expensive effort: clearing away the debris alone will take 494 million roubles, over US$15 million, out of the federal purse, according to expert estimates.

What if money earmarked for the reconstruction of Chechnya is misappropriated?

This fear often appears in the media both in and outside Russia, and political activists say it from the rostrum now and again.

This assumption has really become a clich in the public minds, and it is hard to change it, especially after previous instances of misappropriation. It is groundless now, however.

There is another headache now - money misspent, and upward distortions in housing construction reports. The federal authorities have made it a point to put an end to these misdeeds. The Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation summed up an inspection in April 2002, which exposed that more than 700 million rubles of federal allocations had been misspent, roughly US$22 million. Importantly, the financing arrangement has been thoroughly changed within the last few years, and money now comes to the receiver without a hitch. If allocations were getting through authorized banks five or six years ago, now they go via the Federal Treasury.

In what condition is the republic's oil industry today?

In 2001, Chechnya extracted 705,000 tons of oil, with the average level of daily extraction rising more than five times, from 800 to 4,000 tons, in comparison with the previous year. According to the "Statistical Bulletin on Progress in the Economic and Social Restoration of the Chechen Republic in January-October 2002," it produced 1,223,000 tons of oil, including gas condensate. The republic hit the level of 138,000 tons last October alone.

How can you characterise the basic parametres of the restoration of Chechnya's energy industry?

Electricity supply has been restored in virtually all the districts of the republic and aerial power transmission lines with a total length of 544.6 kilometers have been put into operation. Besides, almost all settlements have been connected to gas supplies; 548 kilometers of gas-mains commissioned and a major strip of the Stavropol-Grozny gas-main, Kavkaz-5 and Kavkaz-10 gas-mains reconstructed. The first steam power-generating unit of the Argun thermal power station TETs-4 was launched in the middle of December 2002 to become the largest of all the rebuilt power plants in Chechnya. It will provide heat for other enterprises, including sugar and ferroconcrete factories, which are to create up to 3,000 jobs.

But the re-launching of the ArgunTETs-4 thermal power station has been accompanied by losses among the personnel...

Indeed, extremists went out of their way to undermine the resurrection of this plant built in the republic 39 years ago. Everything began in 2000 when four workers putting upa protective fence were shot by snipers; then leaflets with threats were scattered on the site. In all, 62 workers of the power plant were killed by militants in Argun. Nurenergo association chief Nurdin Usamov said at the opening ceremony of the Argun TETs-4 first power generation unit: "The revival of the station is a real exploit of Chechen, Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian engineers and workers who have stood up to the bandits."

What can you say about agriculture and related industries in Chechnya?

In 2002, Chechen farmers harvested 350,000 tons of grain from 158,000 hectares, a record crop even for Soviet times. In comparison: the 2001 grain harvest from 135,000 hectares yielded 250,000 tons. Chechnya's agrarian complex has received over 100 grain harvesters, almost a thousand tons of mineral fertilizer and about 100 tons of pesticides.

How is the railway and road network in Chechnya being restored?

The middle of 2002 saw the commissioning of a railway station in Khankala and bridges across the Terek river, as well as the rehabilitation of railways on the Ishcherskaya-Gudermes strip.

A new lease of life has been given to the railway stations on the Ishcherskaya-Gudermes, Ishcherskaya-Khasavyurt, Gudermes-Khankala routs and, most importantly, Grozny. Almost 350 faulty freight carriages have been repaired. It is indicative that over 15,000 carriages arrived in Chechnya without loads from the middle of 2001 to mid-2002.

April, 2002, was marked by the opening of passenger traffic along the Gudermes-Moscow-Gudermes route. Direct railway links were restored between Moscow and Grozny recently. Passengers are now free to move by internal trains or along the routes leading from Chechnya to Ingushetia and North Ossetia. In order to restore the republic' automobile pool, 220 passenger buses, abouta dozen truck cranes and bowsers have been supplied.

In general, the targeted programme "The Rehabilitation of Chechnya's Economic and Social Sphere for 2002 and Subsequent Years" provides for 206.5 million roubles (about $6.3 million) to renovate the republic's motor transport.

Another important component of the republic's social sector's restoration is hospitals, schools, colleges, libraries...

Some 57 hospitals with almost 5,000 beds, 32 health centres, 46 general practitioner's rooms and 175 assistant doctors' stations had been repaired by the middle of 2002. Grozny alone now has nine hospitals, a central maternity home, a first-aid station, eight health centres for adults, three out-patient clinics for children and two dental surgeries. The republic plans to apply capital repairs to another 105 medical establishments, including 37 hospitals with 1,500 beds, five dispensaries fit to receive about a thousand patients a day, 11 out-patient clinics for almost 4,000 visits a day, two maternity homes, over 20 general practitioner's rooms. Some 291,000 people were inoculated in 2002 against various diseases. Seventeen new schools opened at the beginning of 2002-2003 academic year and another 45 schools now being repaired will open their doors for students within a short while. In all, Chechnya boasts 500 schools with a staff of 13,600 teachers instructing about 220,000 students, which is more than last year.

Admission has been restored to the higher educational establishments: the Chechen State University, the Grozny State Oil Industry Institute and the Chechen State Teacher Training Institute, with a total enrolment of 18,000 students. Besides, a group of Chechens has been admitted to Moscow State University.

What about cultural facilities?

It was in 2002 that work began in Grozny on rebuilding a concert hall for 750 people, a Chechen drama theatre for 350 spectators, a state circus seating 1,400, a philharmonic society, a national museum, district cultural clubs in the settlements of Shatoi and Vedeno; 15 million roubles (about $500,000) have been allotted for these projects. Federal support is being rendered to amateur performers and for the restoration and conservation of historical and cultural monuments. Of the registered 21 newspapers and three magazines, 3 newspapers and two magazines are printed, including "The Call of the Earth" with a circulation of 15,000 and "The Republic News" with a circulation of 10,000 copies. Chechen state radio and television broadcast for two and three hours a day, respectively.

LEGAL SYSTEM IN THE MAKING

Is it true that Chechnya has a normally functioning legal system?

Yes, it is. As Russia's Justice Minister Yuri Chaika said recently, Chechnya now has five justice houses opened, including in district centres. Existing structures include notary and law offices, bodies to register public organisations, and civil registrar's offices. As for courts in Chechnya, none of them, according to the minister, has experienced any emergency situations so far. Also, Chechnya has its own corrections department, complete with facilities for keeping prisoners. Correctional colonies and isolation cells are being built or restored in Grozny, Chernokozovo, etc.

In 2002, a special federal programme allocated resources for restoring Chechnya's penal system. Administrative buildings, prisoners' quarters, baths, laundries, and engineering services are currently in the final stages of construction. And here are other statistics. More than 5,500 people were checked in 2002 for their possible involvement in illegal armed formations by Russia's Justice Ministry corrections department and other power structures, nearly 200 kilogrammes of narcotics were seized, and over a thousand illegal oil mini-refineries destroyed.

As of November 25, 2002, according to the Russian Supreme Court's judicial department, the republic's 12 district courts and Supreme Court had received and examined, respectively, 1928 and 1342 criminal cases and 8,782 and 8,384 civil cases, apart from some 120 petition cases.

Are there court bailiffs in Chechnya?

There are currently 200 court bailiffs, 42 notaries, and 95 lawyers employed on a permanent basis in Chechnya. Besides, the Justice Ministry of Russia has seconded 30 of its personnel to Chechnya, while the Prosecutor's Office of Chechnya has its own staff of 264, most of them Chechens. Law enforcement officers from other Russian regions render them regular practical help.

In May 2002, senior bailiffs were called to hear lectures on court activity by senior officials of the republic, Russia's interior department, special forces police, Federal Security Service and the prosecutor's office.

What are the dangers Chechen police face in protecting public law and order?

Crime is still rampant in the republic. On May 14, 2002 alone, for example, 80 locals applied to the republic's law enforcement bodies, complaining that masked men had taken away their money and valuables

And this is without mentioning regular bandit attacks. For bandits the Chechen police is enemy No.1.

It is the police that suffers most in fighting bandits. Sources in the Chechen administration say that the religious and military top leadership of the militants - the so-called "shura" - unhesitatingly passes death sentences on Chechens cooperating with the new bodies of authority and especially with the police.

Why is the reform of the law enforcement bodies in the Chechen Republic needed?

An order recently signed by Russia's Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov to set up a Ministry of the Interior of the Chechen Republic, in place of the interior department for Chechnya,is an important step in this direction. Experts believe that this is a timely and necessary measure to stabilise the situation in the republic. Under new manning tables the numberof personnel of the Chechen Interior Ministry is to be raised to 17,000. Ruslan Tsakayev, a Chechen, has been appointed its head. In the opinion of the Chechen leadership, it is local police who can bring law and order to the republic and maintain it at the proper level. This, however, requires not only increasing the numerical strength of the Chechen police, but also better equipment and weapons.

How are human rights monitoredin Chechnya?

Observing human rights is one of the Chechen government's priority tasks. The post of a special presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya has been created. His duties, apart from protecting civil rights and freedoms, also include cooperation with international public and non-governmental human rights organisations. Currently this position is held by Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, who formerly sat on the State Duma commission on Chechnya.

FORMATION OF THE BODIES OF POWER IN THE CHECHEN REPUBLIC

In what way have the existing bodies of state power in Chechnya been formed?

The new system of the bodies of power in the Chechen Republic began to be actively formed upon the completion of the main stage of military operations by federal forces against terrorists in the summer of 2000. At that time, in line with the decree of the Russian president, the representation of the Russian government in Chechnya was abolished and the administration of this republic formed. With its creation, legal prerequisites for the organisation of the fully-fledged bodies of state power started forming in Chechnya. The highest-ranking official in the Chechen Republic is the administration head. His duties include the appointment of the chairman of the Chechen government. He also represents the republic in relations with the federal bodies of state power and with other Federation subjects.

The Russian president's special representative in the Southern Federal District exercises control over the activity of the Chechen administration. Chechnya's districts also have administrations of their own. The Council for the Social and Economic Security of Chechnya has been functioning under the head of the administration of the Chechen Republic since February 2001. Among its main tasks is setting priorities in the field of ensuring stability in the republic, as well as establishing closer cooperation between republican and federal organisations in Chechnya. The Council includes local leaders and representatives of federal power structures. The Government of the Chechen Republic is a permanently functioning body of executive power. Its main tasks are to ensure socio-economic development, conduct a single state policy in the fields of finance, science, education, the public health service, social security and ecology. Apart from that, the government ensures the protection of human and civil rights and freedoms, the protection of property and public order, and crime control in the Chechen Republic.

Do the bodies of republican authority being created in Chechnya enjoy support among the local population?

Transferring the levers of control over the republic into the hands of its residents became one of the main tasks in creating a system of the bodies of executive power in Chechnya. This is why Chechens hold the overwhelming majority of executive posts in the administration and government. First of all, this is necessary to ensure the real support of the local populationfor the actions of federal authorities to restore peace in Chechnya. The fact that in June 2000 the Russian president appointed Akhmad Kadyrov, who since 1995 was the mufti of Chechnya, - one of those who at the dawn of separatism fought against federal forces - as the administration head can be considered symbolic in this sense. In 1999, he denounced the invasion of Dagestan by militants and sided with the Russian authorities.

Is Chechnya represented in the bodies of federal authority?

The Chechen Republic has the same representations in the federal bodies of power as the rest of the Federation subjects. Elections of a deputy to the lower house of the Federal Assembly - the State Duma - were held in Chechnya in August 2000. Thirteen candidates were running in the elections. About 60% of the registered voters took part in the vote. Major-General (Ret.) of the police Aslambek Aslakhanov won. Voting was qualified as "democratic, active and open." Apart from the State Duma deputy, Chechnya's interests in the Russian capital are upheld by the republic's representative in the upper house of the Russian parliament - the Federation Council - Akhmar Zavgayev. The official representation of the Chechen Republic is situated in Moscow. It stays in contact with federal minister for Chechnya's affairs Stanislav Ilyasov.

A new fundamentallaw for Chechnya has been drafted.What could you say about this?

The so-called Dudayev constitution, which proclaimed the republic as a sovereign state, has been in force in Chechnya since 1992. The drafting of a new Chechen Constitution was completed in late 2002 and became an important step towards the political settlement of the Chechen crisis and returning the republic into the constitutional field of the Russian Federation. Under the draft Fundamental Law, Chechnyais a democratic social rule-of-law state with a republican formof government, while its territory is an inalienable part of the territory of the Russian Federation. Chechnya will be a presidential republic. Its head will be elected for a term of four years and may hold this post only for two consecutive terms. Any Russian citizen over 30 may be elected president.

All Chechen citizens are simultaneously recognised as Russian citizens. Chechen and Russian are the state languages in the Chechen Republic. Russian is the language of interethnic communication and official business correspondence.

The creation and activity of public associations whose aims or activities are directed at forcibly changing the fundamentals of the constitutional system and violating the integrity of the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation, fanning social, racial, ethnic and religious strife, and creating in the Chechen Republic any armed or paramilitary formations that are not provided for in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal legislation are banned.

How will the new Chechen Constitution be adopted?

A referendum on the republic's Constitution will be held on March 23, 2003. Territorial election commissions have already been formed. All in all, 20 election commissions have been created in the republic, including four in Grozny, and their chairmen appointed.

A total of 3,000 people are taking part in the organisation of the referendum and over 50 million rubles have been allocated from the budget of the Russian Federation to finance it. The referendum will cover all the populated areas of Chechnya, where 414 polling stations will open.

The residents of Chechnya will express their attitude to the drafts of the republic's Constitution and the laws on the election of the president and parliament. Representatives of international humanitarian and human rights organisations will observe the referendum.

What will be the next, after the adoption of the Constitution, steps to forma democratic political system in Chechnya?

Parliamentary and presidential elections must be held after the adoption of the Fundamental Law of Chechnya. Under the draft of the Constitution of the Chechen Republic, the parliament will consist of two houses - the Council of the Republic (21 deputies) and the People's Assembly (40 deputies).

Is the population of Chechnya prepared for what is new self-determination?

The Congress of the Chechen People was held on December 11, 2002 in Gudermes, Chechnya. The resolution adopted at this forum says, that "Chechnya wants to be a full and equal member of the Russian Federation, live together with Russia, in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, by the Russian laws common to all." "The Chechen nation does not imagine itself without Russia or outside Russia. Russia is our common destiny," the resolution stresses. The delegates to the congress called on the population of Chechnya to rally round the existing bodies of power with the right to decide all issues related to the socio-political and socio-economic life of the republic.

The resolution also contains an appeal to all the representatives of the Chechen people "in the face of Chechnya's gravest tragedy, to abandon their grievances, mutual claims, restrain ambitions and pride, and consolidate for the revival of the Motherland." The delegates to the congress called "on all the representatives of the warring side for the sake of their people to lay down arms and return to a peaceful life with guarantees for their safety." The Congress adopted an Appeal to the Russian President. The document says: "Thanks to your consistent policy, people believed that the times of friendship and mutual understanding between all the peoples living in our country may be restored, that the Chechen Republic is a full and equal subject of the Russian Federation and an inalienable part of Russia, where people should and will live by the laws common to all Russian citizens...

The political and economic situation in Chechnya is slowly but surely improving. Despite the persisting tension, continuing terrorist acts and provocations against servicemen, administration heads, teachers and the people who refuse to collaborate with militants, positive changes are in evidence everywhere - in industry, agriculture, the social sphere and even in the field of cultural life. "The main achievement of recent times is an obvious change in people's consciousness," stresses the appeal. "More and more ordinary Chechens and representatives of the national elite are coming to realise that a return to normal life in the republic is impossible without saving Chechen society and reviving self-government, whose traditions and experience have largely been lost over the war years... "At the same time, it is becoming ever more clear that Chechnya will not be a full and equal member of the Russian Federation until a new Constitution of the Chechen Republic is adopted and enforced, until the legitimate head of the republic's executive power, the representative bodies of state power, the bodies of local self-government, elected by the population, start working. "We believe that the time for the revival of the state bodies of administration in Chechnya and the whole system of republican authority has come."