Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chechnya: Former rebels to patrol Chechnya - armed by Russia

At the barracks nestled in the Caucasus mountains, the Chechen military officer popped a chunk of moist, fatty mutton into his mouth and leaned across the table, Reuters reported.

"We now have new weapons, new armored personnel carriers, sniper rifles and anti-mine equipment," he said wiping the grease from his mouth with the back of his hand. "The Russians have re-equipped and trained my men."

This is the trade-off that has helped Russian President Vladimir Putin subdue a separatist insurgency in Chechnya that raged for more than a decade.

Moscow has armed and equipped a local army loyal to Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel leader, and given it the task of keeping control. The danger, say analysts, is that this force could turn against the Kremlin.

Government handlers supervise foreign journalists visiting Chechnya but Reuters gained a rare opportunity to go unsupervised to a base in the town of Shali where a unit of the paramilitary police, called the "Kadyrov regiment", is based.

To one side of the barrack's dining hall, four Chechen soldiers stood smiling.
They wore black bandannas and new camouflage uniforms, ammunition magazines filled their chest pouches and they cradled modern Kalashnikov automatic rifles with grenade-launchers fixed to the barrels.

Republished with permission: FOCUS Information Agency!