Is the Main Source of Chechen Rebel Weapons Georgia, or the Russian Army?

By The Jamestown Foundation

Bomb disposal experts in the Chechen capital destroyed a large improvised explosive device in a controlled explosion today (October 29).  Police discovered the bomb in the village of Katayama in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district based off of information provided by a detained rebel accomplice.  The device consisted of a plastic bucket filled with explosives equivalent to five kilograms of TNT. On October 28, police found an explosive-laden belt in Grozny — also, according to police, as a result of information from a captured rebel accomplice. The explosive belt, which contained explosives equal to seven kilograms of TNT, was discovered in the attic of a house. On October 25, a home-made bomb consisting of six kilograms of explosives was found 70 meters from the entrance of the republican theater-concert hall in Grozny. The device was defused by bomb disposal experts.

On October 28, a Russian Interior Ministry Internal Troops serviceman was killed and another severely injured in a bombing in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district. The bombing took place in the settlement of Komsomoskoe as an Internal Troops unit was patrolling the area. On October 27, police killed a gunman who opened fired on a car carrying three police officers in the Chechen town of Achkhoi-Martan. On October 25, a group of Internal Troops de-miners in Chechnya’s Shali district was the target of a radio-controlled bomb blast. The explosion took place on the road running between the village of Avtury and the settlement of Germenchuk. No one was hurt in the incident (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 29; Interfax, October 28 and 25).

On October 28, Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov commented on the apparent split within the ranks of the rebels, telling Interfax that Doku Umarov, the “emir” of the Caucasus Emirate, and Khusein Gakaev, the leader of a group of Chechen rebel field commanders who recently rescinded their oaths of loyalty to Umarov, had “quarreled over something.” Alkhanov said the rebel leaders no longer control anything and were “doomed” to suffer the same fate as slain rebel leaders Shamil Basaev and Aslan Maskhadov. The Chechen Interior Minister said that despite high-profile rebel actions in recent months, such as the attacks on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s ancestral village of Tsentoroi and the Chechen parliament in Grozny, there was no need to introduce any special security measures in Chechnya. He insisted that Chechnya’s police are in “total control of the situation” in the republic. Alkhanov claimed that the militants in Chechnya were involved in “consultations” with Akhmad Zakaev, the London-based Chechen rebel emissary. Asked about the whereabouts of Chechen rebel leaders, Alkhanov said Umarov and Gakaev are apparently hiding in Chechnya’s mountains while constantly changing their location. Alkhanov refused to estimate how many rebels were operating in Chechnya (Interfax, October 28).

This past week, Kadyrov accused Georgia of backing rebels in Chechnya. On October 22, he charged that financial support, weapons and even “entire groups of bandits” were sent to the rebels in Chechnya via Georgia in the past, and that today Georgia remains “almost the only source” of aid to the rebels. Kadyrov also claimed that only about 50-70 militants are operating in Chechnya (Interfax, October 22).

Kadyrov reiterated his accusations on October 26, stating that information from detained rebels and accomplices showed that “weapons and ammunition were continuing to flow into Chechnya from Georgia and that militants were being trained within its territory. He also accused the Georgian media of spreading “distorted information” about the situation in the North Caucasus. That same day, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s spokeswoman Manana Mandzhgaladze called Kadyrov’s allegations “baseless,” adding that Saakashvili believes Kadyrov is trying to divert public attention “from domestic problems to an outside enemy” adding that the Chechen president’s accusations were sparking “new tensions” in the region (Interfax, October 26).

On October 25, Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk, deliberately or not, undercut Kadyrov’s accusations against Georgia, stating that most of the weapons in the hands of rebels in the North Caucasus came from Russian military units. Sydoruk said Russia is losing the information and “ideological” battle against the North Caucasus rebels and that it was “extremely important” to cooperate with the region’s clergy. He added that the number of “extremist crimes” in the North Caucasus had increased four-fold this year, and that high unemployment and unsolved socio-economic problems were the main reason for the rise of extremism in the region. “As of July 1, there were 449,000 unemployed people in the region,” he said. “Forty percent of the population of Ingushetia lives below the subsistence level, which provides a favorable ground for militants and extremists. Give him $100 and he will do anything you want.” Sydoruk said.  He also stated  that more than 300 militants were killed and more than 50 terrorist acts were prevented in the first nine months of this year, while 205 employees of law-enforcement agencies were killed and 489 wounded during the same period (Interfax, ITAR-TASS, October 25).

Meanwhile, a powerful remote-controlled bomb was defused in Dagestan’s capital on October 27. The device reportedly contained explosives equivalent to six kilograms of TNT and two kilograms of nuts, bolts and brick fragments (Interfax, October 27). In Ingushetia, four policemen and a local woman were injured when militants detonated a bomb near a police check point in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya (Interfax, October 25).

Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov told President Dmitry Medvedev on October 28 that a special operation had broken up a militant group that was planning to carry out a terrorist attack in the city of Pyatigorsk, Stavropol Krai, on October 26. Bortnikov said the militants, two of whom were killed in the operation, were involved in the terrorist bombing in Pyatigorsk on August 17, which killed at least 30 people (RIA Novosti, October 28).