Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Monday, 7 February, 2000, 15:50 GMT
New government for Chechnya

russian soldiers patrolling Grozny Russia says it has ''liberated'' Grozny

By Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel

It may not be easy for the inhabitants of Grozny to take in, as they crawl out of the cellars where they have lived for the past few weeks, but the Russian government describes its military operation in Chechnya as one of "liberation".

International organisations have criticised the ferocity of much of the campaign.

But as the Russians have progressively taken over areas of the republic, they have tried to show that they are keen to return life to something approaching normality.

Refugees Chechens refugees have to live in tents

With Grozny officially declared to be in Russian hands, ministers met on Monday morning to discuss the rapid delivery of a water purification system to the city.

The army has already announced that a food kitchen is operating in the central Minutka Square.

The Ministry for Emergency Situations says that two more centres, providing food and medical assistance, will be operating from Tuesday.

New Government

In the longer term, the Justice Minister, Yury Chaika, says that his ministry is working with the Nationalities Ministry to draw up a plan by Thursday for a new government for Chechnya.

A further sign of a return to some sort of normality, is the news that law enforcement agencies are being set up.

Russians patrol Grozny Russian troops patrol the Chechen capital

These measures may be designed to show not only that Moscow is concerned for the welfare of what it regards as the peaceful inhabitants of Chechnya but that it is also in control of the situation.

But it will take more than soup kitchens for the Russians to win the trust of the people of Grozny.

Indeed, after the battering that the Chechen capital has taken since 1994, it may already be too late to convince those people left in Grozny that Moscow is their friend.

The Russians may consider it not worth their while to do more than simply make life bearable at the moment, but then leave them to make their own plans for the future.

Certainly, re-building the shattered Chechen capital does not seem to be a priority for the Kremlin.

Serious damage

Grozny was badly damaged in the war of 1994 to 1996.

The Russian Army tried to take the city by force in January 1995, suffering heavy losses, but inflicting serious damage to the city's buildings.

The city suffered again when Chechen rebels won it back in June 1996.

After the Russians effectively abandoned Chechnya following their military humiliation then, there was simply no money available to carry out any significant rebuilding of Grozny before the new Russian military operation in Chechnya began in September last year.

And this time, the damage done to Grozny was even worse than in the first campaign, as the Russian Army adopted a policy of smashing the city with air power and artillery, before beginning the ground assault.

As parts of Grozny were taken by Russian troops, many buildings were reduced to empty shells, as the Russian forces destroyed interiors, to prevent rebels coming back and using them as sniper hideouts.

New capital

The idea was raised early in this campaign that the Russians might create a new capital for Chechnya, possibly in the republic's second city, Gudermes.

Although Gudermes also bears the scars of the war, the Russians took it without having to carry out a full-scale assault, so more of its infrastructure is in place than in Grozny.

But moving the capital away from Grozny would not simply be for the practical purpose of setting up a pro-Moscow government in a place where buildings are still standing.

The shell of Grozny may also serve as a visual reminder, not only to the Chechens, but to any other peoples who may contemplate breaking away from Russia just what Moscow is prepared to do to hold onto what it considers as its territory.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Europe Contents

Country profiles

See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Europe
Survivors reveal Grozny atrocities
05 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russians pursue Chechen rebels
06 Feb 00 |  Europe
Putin on target for presidency
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russia to cut Chechnya force
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechen rebels 'set up mountain base'
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Conflict not over yet
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Turkey succours wounded Chechens
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
US warns Russia over Chechnya
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Refugees battle Caucasus winter
30 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The shifting sands of war

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories