There are reportedly 30,000 civilians trapped in the Chechen-held areas of
Grozny. They live underground in civil defense shelters, the basements of
bombed out buildings, or in destroyed factories. Almost all the people are
elderly pensioners. Food is scarce. They are without heat, light, water or
sanitation and the harsh winter conditions have been particularly hard on them.
They are overwhelmingly ethnic Russians or other slavs, almost all Chechen
civilians have left the city since the war began. Most stayed because they
were long-term residents of the city and expected the troubles to end quickly.
In recent interviews, virtually all have said they want to leave -- most have
families or friends in Russia where they believe they could find refuge. There
situation is now critical because food is running out; the Chechen authorities
are no longer able to bring in food supplies. The Chechen leadership has said
they will support the evacuation as long as it is done safely.
An informal working group will be formed to (1) establish a general cease-fire
in Grozny and along designated evacuation routes and (2) organize the
evacuation of those civilians who want to leave. Once the people have been
safely evacuated from the city, they will be registered and placed into the
existing evacuation and relocation system operated by the Federal Migration
Service in cooperation with the Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM).
If the working group is unable to bring about a Moscow mandated cease-fire
within the limited time that is available, a civil action to force the issue in
the field should be organized. That approach is described in detail in section
VII of this paper.
Technically, an alternate arrangement might be to negotiate a localized
cease-fire around an evacuation corridor and move the people out through that
route to villages south of the city, then from there to areas in Ossetia where
they could be transferred to other points in Russia. However, this approach is
inherrently more dangerous for the people since they would have to move to the
assembly points under the risk of stray firing and possible breakdowns in
security along the evacuation route. Therefore, a general cease-fire is
preferable -- and is more important to the long range political objectives of
III. RELATED ISSUES
1. Importance of the cease-fire:
While the primary purpose is to evacuate the people, a second, but equally
important objective, is to use the evacuation as a means of stopping the
fighting for the duration of the evacuation and using that lull to push for
political negotiations to establish a durable and permanent cease-fire.
2. Importance of the evacuation time frame:
The break-down of the last cease-fire, which had been worked out by the
on-site military commanders of the two sides1, occurred largely because there
were no "working reasons" to prolong it -- i.e., military considerations were
not enough. They also say that the short duration of the cease-fire, five
days, was not sufficient for the politicians to engage nor for the
international community to apply pressure on the two governments to halt the
fighting. Many of the officers believe that if a cease-fire of ten days to two
weeks would allow time for political pressures to build that could lead to a
3. How the two sides view the evacuation:
The Chechen authorities have said that they will support the evacuation and
will honor the proposed cease-fire. They say they are concerned about the
people's plight and are fearful that they (the Chechens) will be blamed for the
people's deaths. There is little military advantage to the Chechens one way or
the other. However, the sight of thousands of Russians leaving the city will
surely drive home the point that it the majority of the people killed by
Russian bombing have been Russians, not Chechens and widespread recognition of
that fact will undoubtedly put a great deal of pressure on the Yeltsin
Some human rights observers have said that they are worried that local Chechen
commanders might be afraid that if the people leave, that the Russian
bombardment will become even more fierce and therefore, they may try to prevent
all the people from leaving so that were be some disincentive to intensifying
the attacks on the areas they hold.
The Russians publicly do not admit that the civilians remaining in the
Chechen-held areas are ethnic Russians. Russian officials -- military and
humanitarian alike -- claim that the only civilians left are a hard core group
of pro-Dudayev Chechens. They apparently maintain that fiction in order to
divert criticism of the indiscriminate Russian bombing and shelling of the
Senior Chechen officers (Masakhdov, Boudy) and the Ingush observers at the
peace talks (Aushev and Agapov) claim that the Russians do not want to evacuate
any civilians because it will undercut their argument that it is necessary to
keep Russian troops in the area to protect the people.
There may also be another element. The Russians may want to prevent anymore
of the Russian population from leaving because they know that few will ever
return. The evacuation of this group, along with those who have already left,
will ultimately reduce Moscow's influence in the republic.
How the two sides view a cease-fire:
At the battlefield level, the commanders of both sides would like to see the
cease-fire reinstated. The Chechen leadership believes that a cease-fire works
in their favor for it allows time for the international community to build
pressure on the Russians. However, they also realize that it gives the
Russians time to establish civil administration in the city which ultimately
works against the rebel cause; thus they will have to see substantial progress
before they will be willing to prolong the cease-fire for more than the
duration of the evacuation.
Russian senior officers (Grachev, Kulikov and Babichev) say they believe that
cease-fires enable the Chechens to reinforce their positions and therefore,
they oppose the concept. They also are under intense pressure to end the war
and thus do not want anything slowing the momentum that they have developed.
[Generally, cease-fires favor the stronger military side for it allows them to
consolidate the territory that they hold. F.C.]
IV. KEY STEPS
1. Mobilize public opinion in favor of the evacuation. It is important that
pressures be generated from all quarters, all elements of the political
spectrum. This will require:
a. Increasing the public's awareness of the people's plight and the fact that
they are ethnic Russians.
b. Making it clear that the people can be saved and what could happen if they
c. Galvanizing public pressure in favor of a cease-fire to allow the
evacuation to occur. Media must be briefed. The general concept of the plan
-- a ten-day cease-fire, mobilization of a fleet of 100 buses, using the
existing system of relocation, etc. -- must be advocated as a package. Human
rights groups must be mobilized. And army groups such as veterans'
organizations and pensioners' unions should be enlisted in the effort.
2. Parliamentarians must be organized. Parliament must propose a specific
course of action and direct the president and the military to take that action.
A resolution should be passed:
a. mandating the military to negotiate a ten-day general cease-fire;
b. mandating EMERCOM organize the evacuation of the people by making all its
c. requesting that international humanitarian organizations such as the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization
for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees participate as
monitors and accompany the evacuation convoys to help guarantee their
d. mandating the Federal Migration Service prepare to receive the refugees and
swiftly move them to the locations the people choose for resettlement; and
e. requesting international financial assistance to help permanently resettle
The resolution should designate a coordinator on behalf of the parliament to
see that the administration carries out the proposal. [It should also
designate EMERCOM as the lead government agency for this action.]
3. International pressure must be mobilized in support of the evacuation and
cease-fire, and ultimately key governments should be prepared for pressuring
Yeltsin administration to use the cease-fire period for getting peace talks
1. Obtaining the Cease-fire:
The cease-fire should be a general truce. It does not require a pull-back of
forces, though the two sides should set up some means for monitoring violations
and stopping them from spreading. It must be city-wide and throughout the
zones where people will be traveling by convoy. This is needed to permit
convoys of buses to assemble, cross the confrontation lines, and go to various
points in the city to pick up the people. The people themselves need a general
cease-fire so that they can go to their apartments and collect what little they
have left to take with them. The cease-fire should be continuous, not just for
certain hours each day.
2. Evacuation Routes: Attempts should be made to open two routes:
Route 1: Grozny north to Tolstoy Yurt to Zamenskya to Mozdok. This route will
be used to take the ethnic Russians and Slavs to the relocation center in
Mozdok. From there they will be given train tickets to their final
Route 2: Grozny south to Shali. This route will serve the Chechens who want
to leave. From Shali, the local Chechen authorities would help the people get
to villages where they have family or friends to shelter them.
Even though there are only a few Chechens who will evacuate, from an
operational and safety view, it is important that the southern route be
established and kept open throughout the evacuation. This will extend the area
covered by the cease-fire southward and thereby restrict bombing in that area
which is important in guarding the broader political objective of the
cease-fire. [Two routes will also reduce criticism that the evacuation is only
3. The buses:
The buses chosen should be large (such as the TAM buses built in Yugoslavia)
which have enclosed cargo space underneath because the people will want to
bring some of their belongings. [But more important, larger buses are more
intimidating than the smaller metro buses and a long line of big buses is much
harder to stop than one of small micros when the press is watching.] The
larger buses could carry some 30 people and their belongings; thus 100 buses
should be chartered for the ten day operation. Assuming this number is used
for planning purposes, 100 buses x 30 people per day equals 3,000 people per
day; thus in ten days 30,000 people could be evacuated.
4. Crossing the confrontation line:
When the evacuation begins, the buses should either be escorted across the
confrontation lines by observers from international humanitarian agencies such
as the ICRC or UNHCR or driven by international drivers. The buses should
cross the lines before the people are assembled; it will give them added
protection against a resumption of firing.
5. Assembling the people: The Chechen authorities will need to organize the
evacuation on their side. They must be prepared to go from building to
building to notify the people of the evacuation, give them time and help in
gathering their belongings, and escort them to the places where the buses will
6. Escorting them to safety: When the buses return, they must be escorted
across the confrontation lines. Two-way radio contact between the drivers, the
escorts, and the authorities on both sides at the designated crossing points is
7. Medical screening and preparations for the journey: The buses should
proceed out to the city as quickly as possible to a point several miles out of
the immediate conflict zone, then stop at a temporary medical facility where
the people can be given a quick health check and some food and water. Tolstoy
Yurt might be an good stopping point for the Mozdok-bound convoys.
8. Registration and placing the refugees into the FMS system:
Once the people are in Mozdok, the normal, existing system takes over. FMS
should register the people, provide them with tickets to their destination, and
give them a cash stipend to help defray expenses enroute and at their
9. Assisting those with no place to go:
Some people will have no place to go. FMS has set up temporary settlements
and receiving facilities in cities south of Moscow. To the extent possible
those facilities can be used. It may be necessary however, to help FMS find
other locations to relieve temporary overcrowding that this evacuation might
10. Monitoring the conditions in the refugee settlements in central Russia:
In the past, there have been reports that the refugee settlements set up by
FMS are poorly maintained and staffed. Because the majority of the people
being evacuated are elderly, they will be less able to adapt to poor conditions
than younger families. The parliament and the working group should ensure that
the facilities are properly monitored and that special arrangements are made
for elderly evacuees.
Evacuation should begin no later than 15 March.
VII. ALTERNATE ACTION PLAN
If the government or the military doesn't respond to parliament's call for a
cease-fire, the working group should proceed to organize the evacuation and
force the issue in the field. A large convoy of buses should be assembled in
the vicinity of the region, the press should be notified of the action, and
then the convoy should set off for Grozny accompanied by the media.
Outstanding public figures including members of parliament, retired military
officers, human rights groups, soldiers mothers and others should ride on the
buses. (It may be possible to enlist distinguished international personalities
as well.) Any time the buses are stopped, the media should be mobilized to
cover the incident. Leaders of the working group should also accompany the
buses and handle negotiations with the authorities as the convoy proceeds.
Once the convoy is in the vicinity of Grozny, it should extremely difficult for
local commanders to refuse it permission to carry out the evacuation.
Several on-site Russian generals have privately said that if such a convoy
were to arrive at the outskirts of Grozny, that they would be able to arrange
the cease-fire regardless of their orders from Moscow. These are the same
generals who prolonged the last cease-fire on their own authority in defiance
of instructions from their superiors (hoping that the politicians could be
forced to continue the negotiations.)
The general officers involved in the fighting are all former colleagues
who know and respect each other. Some of the Russian officers were deputies to
Dudayev or General Aslan Masakhdov or to Ingush political leaders President
Auchev and Vice President Agapov -- who are themselves serving major and
leutenant generals themselves.
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