Russia issues another 'war over' signal

Russian officials said on Monday that the country's secret services would hand over security in Chechnya to the interior ministry early next month.

    Russia's interior ministry will take
    over Chechnya's security

    A top military official in Chechnya, Yevgeny Abrashin, said that the handover would begin on July 1 and be completed by the end of August, Interfax news agency reported.


    A senior general within the Russian interior ministry would be named as the top official by the time the new regime started working.


    “We have made a decision to move away from counter-terrorist operations in favour of general operations aimed at keeping order”, Abrashin was quoted as saying.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin has in the past used the Federal Security Service (FSB, formerly KGB) for all important military operations in Chechnya.


    Abrashin said military operations conducted by the rebels were subsiding.


    “There are currently no large bandit formations of Chechens that are capable of staging large attacks in the republic’s territory”, he said.


    “Their leaders have instead chosen terrorism as their main weapon”.


    In recent weeks, more than 100 people were killed, including Russian military personnel, in a series of Chechen suicide bombs.


    The bomb attacks undermined Russian claims that the Chechen resistance had been overcome.


    Chechen rebel spokesman, Salambek Maigov, described the handover of Chechen security to the interior ministry as “a propaganda move”.


    “The Kremlin has on many occasions said that this or that decision will improve the situation in Chechnya, when in reality things only keep getting worse”, Maigov told Moscow Echo radio.


    Putin launched the second Chechen war in October 1999 in an attempt to crush the republic's aspirations for independence.


    Since then, the war has turned into a guerrilla campaign that has killed some 5,000 Russian soldiers, according to the official toll.


    No official statistics for civilian casualties are available but tens of thousands have died in this and the first war between 1994-1996.


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