Apr 16, 2009

Chechen Republic of Ichkeria: Russia ‘Ends Chechnya Operation’

Active ImageRussia has ended its decade-long "counter-terrorism operation" against separatist rebels in the southern republic of Chechnya, officials say.
Below is an article published by: BBC News

Russia has ended its decade-long "counter-terrorism operation" […] in the southern republic of Chechnya, officials say.

The move aimed "to create conditions to further normalise the situation", the National Anti-terrorist Committee said.

Russian forces have fought two wars in the mainly Muslim republic since 1994.

Moscow says Chechnya has stabilised under its pro-Kremlin President, Ramzan Kadyrov, but human rights groups accuse his militias of widespread abuses.

"We received the news about cancelling the counter-terrorism operation with great satisfaction," Mr Kadyrov told Russia's Interfax news agency on Thursday [16 April 2009].

"The leadership of Russia has officially confirmed the fact that the nest of terrorism has been crushed, that illegal armed groups have been neutralised, and militant leaders on whose conscience lay the grief and suffering of thousands of people have been destroyed, detained and brought to court."

"Now the Chechen Republic... is a peaceful, developing territory, and cancelling the counter-terrorism operation will only promote economic growth in the republic," he added.

Sporadic clashes persist in Chechnya, however, and violence continues in the neighbouring regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Correspondents say Mr Kadyrov rules over Chechnya by fear. Human rights groups have documented allegations of kidnappings, torture and murder of the president's opponents.

Mr Kadyrov has dismissed such claims and denied any involvement.

Troop levels

In a statement on Thursday [16 April 2009], Russia's National Anti-terrorist Committee said it had "cancelled the decree imposing an anti-terror operation on the territory of Chechnya, effective from midnight [2000 GMT on Wednesday 15 April 2009]".

"This decision aims to create conditions to further normalise the situation in the region, to restore and develop its economic and social infrastructure," it said.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow says the announcement is a moment of great symbolism, but that in fact relative stability was established some time ago.


President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the end of the counter-terrorism operation after announcing last month [March 2009] that he believed the region was now stable enough to ease security restrictions.

These include curfews, road blocks, periodic searches by the security forces for suspected Islamist fighters, and relaxed detention rules.
"We must create new possibilities for investment and employment," Mr Medvedev said in a broadcast on state television in March [2009].

Our correspondent says it is not clear how many Russian forces will still remain in Chechnya.

A source in the Russian interior ministry has said 5,000 of its troops would gradually pull out, but it is not yet clear how many regular soldiers will do the same, he adds.

War-ravaged republic

Chechnya declared independence from Russia in 1991.

Three years later the Kremlin sent in troops to restore its authority, sparking the first Chechen war, which ended in humiliating defeat for Russian forces in 1996.

In 1999, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops back in, launching the "counter-terrorism operation" that has now been ended after 10 years.

The Kremlin pounded the rebels and gradually managed to persuade several powerful clan leaders to defect.

They included Akhmad Kadyrov, a senior Chechen religious leader, who later was elected president and declared his loyalty to Moscow.
He was killed in a bomb blast in October 2003, but was eventually followed by his son, Ramzan.