Aslan Doukaev, Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus service, was quoted extensively in an article for "Time" magazine on Russia's declaration that its "counterterrorism operation" in Chechnya is officially over. The move by the Kremlin is being widely interpreted as a "win" for pro-Kremlin strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who will now control an essentially independent Chechnya.
A portion of the article is reprinted below. The full version is available here
.Russia's Chechnya Pullout: Compromise Over Victory
James Marson | Time
And while the insurgency in Chechnya has been subdued over the past two years by Kadyrov's aggressive tactics, violence is on the rise in neighboring republics. "The contagion has spread to surrounding areas," says Aslan Doukaev, director of the North Caucasus service for independent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "The rebel movement and anti-Russian sentiment has spread across the North Caucasus, even into [neighboring] Ingushetia, which used to be loyal."
Nor is Chechnya quite as peaceful as Kadyrov claims. Just hours after the announcement of the end of counterterrorist operation, Russian forces were involved in a gun battle with rebels in southern Chechnya. "I suspect there are still several hundred, perhaps up to 1,000 [rebel] fighters. There are sympathizers in practically every village," says Doukaev, who nevertheless concedes that fighting has dwindled.
Moscow's announcement will lead to the withdrawal of about 20,000 federal troops. But declaring "victory" in Chechnya also adds to the sense that Kadyrov has become the tail that wags the Russian dog. He has been lobbying for a pullout for months and experts say it will allow him to strengthen his already firm grip. "He has built a state within a state," says Doukaev. "The Kadyrov government is a problem for Moscow. They have no control over him. This decision gives him a free rein to operate."