Staunton, October 26 – Ivan Sydoruk, the deputy Procurator General of the Russian Federation, told the Federation Council’s Committee on Legal and Judicial Questions yesterday that “the basic part of weapons used by militants in the North Caucasus come from the stores of [Russian] military units.”
Over the last 18 months, he continued, “all attacks on the militia and officials have been committed with the use of contemporary weapons and explosives,” and the number of these attacks has increased dramatically as well, just two of many statements that call into question the optimistic assessments of many Russian and Western officials and experts.
And instead of being degraded as Moscow claims, the militants have become more sophisticated, carefully preparing their attacks and feints and even taking steps to ensure that when they use suicide bombers, as they increasingly do, the latter are destroyed in such a way that their remains cannot be identified (www.interfax.ru/politics/txt.asp?id=161926).
Sydoruk, who oversees the Southern and North Caucasian Federal Districts, said that in 2010, “the number of extremist crimes had increased by more than four times, and that 70 percent of these 352 acts had taken place in Chechnya, belying the upbeat claims of Ramzan Kadyrov, Vladimir Putin and others (www.ng.ru/regions/2010-10-27/6_sydoruk.html).
The Russian force structures have had some successes, he noted, pointing to the destruction of 400 militants over the last nine months, the prevention of “more than 50 terrorist acts,” the seizure of 240 kilograms of explosives, 500 units of fire arms and more than 100 grenades (www.interfax-russia.ru/South/main.asp?id=184636).
But as impressive as these numbers are, Sydoruk suggested, they highlight the extent of the problem, especially since the militants seem quite able to recruit replacements, find money and arms, and enjoy at least some support in the population. And these factors taken together are reflected in the number of losses Russian forces continue to take.
In that regard, historian Vladimir Popov told “Nezavisimaya” that Sydoruk’s figures showed that the militants in the North Caucasus were killing 19 militiamen and soldiers every week last year, but now, this figure has risen to 23. “For peace time,” he continued, “these are very large losses, which can be compared with the losses of the US and NATO in Afghanistan.”
Sydoruk made some even more sweeping conclusions. He said that Russia is losing “the information and especially the ideological” struggle and that in order to regain the initiative, the Russian side must work in close relationship with the Muslim religious leaders in the North Caucasus (actualcomment.ru/news/16595).
He also pointed to the disastrous economic situation. As of July 1, he said, there were 449,000 unemployed in the North Caucasus Federal District, some 40 percent of the population. That situation is a breeding ground for militants and extremists, he said, adding “Give some one of them a 100 dollars and he will do whatever you want.”
And he was equally critical of the militia and its activities. “In the majority of subjects of the district, issues of protecting educational institutions and other socially important objects have not been resolved.” Moreover, militia units often fail to take the most obvious steps to prevent attacks and ensure security.
Sydoruk said that the situation was so bad in MVD units in the North Caucasus that there needed to be a complete “re-attestation” of all its employees in order to “free [the police] from cowards and traitors because we are in possession of factors and criminal cases which confirm the direct betrayal by some employees” (www.interfax.ru/politics/txt.asp?id=161926).
At another level, the prosecutor continued, “one of the chief tasks” Russia must address is “intercepting the money flows of the militants.” They are currently getting money both from domestic sources, often engaging in “open rackets” and also by a tightly controlled system of financing from abroad, one that is very difficult to break into.
Sydoruk’s comments are so much at variance from those of Putin, Kadyrov, and other senior Russian officials that it will be worth watching what happens now, either to his career or to Moscow’s policies in a region that remains far more unstable and violent than is generally believed.