Rebels Shun Pro-Moscow Chechen Boss
Jun. 27, 2000
NAZRAN, Russia (AP) _ Chechen rebel field commanders said Tuesday they were determined to keep fighting Russian forces, despite far inferior numbers and a growing split in the militants' ranks.
The proclamation came after three militant commanders switched alliances and urged the rebels to support Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, a Chechen who has been named head of the republic's Moscow-backed administration. The three commanders also wanted rebels to oust all foreign mercenaries fighting on the Chechen side.
Field commander Ali Shabazov, meeting with several other rebel commanders in southwest Chechnya, said the rebels would fight ``to the last soldier,'' and the three other commanders would be replaced.
``We consider these commanders traitors, they have disgraced all Chechens,'' Shabazov said. ``But we will go on fighting in unequal combat with the strong and powerful enemy.''
Despite increasing fractures in the rebel command, the rebels have kept the larger, better armed Russian force at bay in the southern mountains, despite Kremlin claims that the rebels were almost wiped out.
Rather than launching major offensives in recent months, rebels have repeatedly infiltrated Russian-controlled territory, killing and wounding scores of Russian servicemen and pro-Moscow Chechens.
Six Russian servicemen were wounded Monday when mines ripped through two military vehicles near the village of Mesker-Yurt, southeast of the capital, Grozny, said Russia's Chechnya envoy, Sergei Yastrzhembsky.
Despite continued danger, the military on Tuesday lifted some travel restrictions for civilians in Chechnya. Previously, people seeking to pass the scores of checkpoints on roads across Chechnya needed special passes. Now they only need to show their Russian passports.
Russia has come under international criticism because of accusations that the military has committed widespread human rights abuses during the military campaign, including torture, rape and summary execution. Earlier this month, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe suspended Russia's voting rights in protest.
But Tuesday, the council's committee of ministers said suspending Russia from the body wasn't necessary, as Russia had made some efforts to address the concerns of abuse, Russian media reported.
Also Tuesday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe negotiated with Russian officials in Moscow over the return of OSCE representatives to Chechnya, said OSCE official Ivan Popruga in Moscow.
The OSCE played a prominent role in bringing Russian commanders and Chechen rebels to the negotiating table in the 1994-96 Chechen war, which ended with a Russian withdrawal. But the OSCE pulled out of Chechnya in early 1999 for security reasons. Kidnappings and violence had become rampant after the Russian withdrawal in 1996.
The group was scheduled to go back earlier this year, but wanted more security guarantees, the Interfax news agency said. Popruga would not comment on the Interfax report, saying only that consultations would continue.
Russian troops rolled into Chechnya in September, after militants raided the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan, and after about 300 people were killed in apartment bombings the authorities blamed on Chechen rebels.