Situation in Chechnya
With his power waning internally, Aslan Maskhadov attempted to
reunite rebel factions in 2002, giving radical warlords government
positions despite his troubled relations with them. He chose rival
commander Shamil Basayev to become head of military operations.
"Despite presidential and parliamentary elections and repeated accommodations
of radicals and militants by the elected leadership, the warlords and factions
rather than politicians have continued to control events," Greg Hansen
wrote in a paper for the Institute for International Studies.
Chechen radicals' seizure of a Moscow theatre in late 2002 holding
some 800 people hostage, Vladimir Putin ruled out all negotiation
with Maskhadov. Basayev reportedly ordered the theatre attack,
which Maskhadov condemned in a statement. In the midst of the
crisis, however, the man who led the attack, Movsar Barayev, told
the Sunday Times of London that his orders had come from both
Maskhadov and Basayev.
Russia's claims that normalcy is returning to the troubled region,
its military hold on the breakaway province appears anything but
solid. Rebels regularly launch deadly ambushes on the Russian
military, and recent acts, including the Moscow theatre hostage
crisis, show an increasing trend toward extreme violence as a
means to advance their cause.
fighting has heightened as Maskhadov's power has waned, with various
bands of rebels taking orders from warlords with different views
on the employment of violence and guerrilla tactics.
me, multiple new military groups arise in Chechnya today, of which
neither I nor Maskhadov nor anyone else is in control," Basayev
said in a May 2002 interview with Russia's Prima News Agency.
"The groups act autonomously today, doing whatever they think
appropriate. People are embittered with the war, and the Russian
proverb 'One doesn't make the army' is obsolete."
continuing popularity among the Chechen people despite
his slipping power means his fate is likely to have a profound
impact on the state of Chechnya's conflict with Russia.
"What I'm terrified of ... is they [Russia] won't capture him, but
will in fact kill him, either deliberately or accidentally, and any hope
of a negotiated settlement will go out the window," Anatol Lieven, of
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Christian Science