07MOSCOW3495, CHECHNYA REVISITED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3495 2007-07-17 13:45 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO4876
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3495/01 1981345
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 171345Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2137
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 5071

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 003495 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/02/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREF PHUM PINR EAID RS
SUBJECT: CHECHNYA REVISITED 
 
REF: A. 05 MOSCOW 4108 
     B. MOSCOW 2857 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. 
Reasons 1.4 (b and d). 
 
1.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  During a recent visit by REFCOORD to 
Grozny, the evidence of Chechnya's economic reconstruction 
was striking.  Scaffolding, initially seen only around 
government buildings, has appeared everywhere, including 
private homes.  Minutka Square, long a symbol of the city's 
destruction, has been cleared, while what is promised to be 
the largest mosque in the North Caucasus commands the center 
of Grozny.  Traffic and pedestrians have returned to city 
streets.   Interlocutors ascribe this progress to the 
leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, while conceding the human 
rights costs.  For Grozny's long-suffering population, the 
reconstruction and relative security has resurrected a 
once-forgotten sense of hope, although nervousness remains 
due to rumors of a resurgent insurgency.  Ingushetiya is not 
faring as well, as increased abductions as well as attacks on 
police and military targets have raised tensions in the 
republic and prompted some Ingush to soften their opposition 
to reunification with Chechnya.  For the international 
community, the transition from humanitarian aid to recovery 
and economic development in Chechnya looms large, but the 
GOR's signals on international involvement in the region 
remain mixed.  U.S. assistance will continue to make a 
significant contribution to security in the North Caucasus as 
long as we work with other donors and avoid falling prey to 
GOR suspicions.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (C) On June 28, REFCOORD traveled to Chechnya as part of 
a UNHCR monitoring mission, his first visit in 15 months.  He 
visited a temporary accommodation center for returning IDPs, 
met with local NGOs, and saw two U.S.-funded humanitarian aid 
projects.  Because of UN and GOR security regulations, the 
mission stayed on a pre-determined route, accompanied by 
Russian MVD troops in two armored jeeps, two Chechen traffic 
police cars, and a third jeep with men who were probably 
Federal Security Service officers.  Grozny's security has 
improved to the point that the mission was able to have lunch 
at a pizza restaurant in the city center and to make an 
impromptu stop for photographs.  Our observations are 
anecdotal, however, and limited to what we could see along 
the route. 
 
RETURN TO CHECHNYA 
------------------- 
 
3.  (C) Crossing into Chechnya from Ingushetiya at the 
Kavkaz-1 checkpoint, cars must pass a Russian military 
blockpost, but other than our MVD escorts, this was the only 
Russian military presence that we saw along the route to 
Grozny.  Kavkaz-1 continues to be a lucrative assignment for 
Russian forces.  UN staff told us that soldiers pay up to USD 
1,000 for their postings there, and recoup the cost by 
demanding money from motorists.  Or as we observed, 
confiscating a bottle of soda as relief for the 90-degree 
heat. 
 
4.  (SBU) Passing through Achkoy Martan and Urus Martan, 
heading east to Grozny on a road recently paved, the armored 
vehicles we had seen on previous visits were gone, replaced 
by tractors and threshers working in the fields (ref A).  We 
passed a work crew repairing a bridge, and a little farther, 
a boy cutting grass along the road with a scythe.  We saw 
nothing out of the ordinary, and a ride that in the past went 
at high speed, continued at a leisurely pace, with time to 
take in the fields immediately before us and the shadows of 
the Caucasus in the distance.  There was no suggestion of 
trouble other than the heavily armed men in the vehicles in 
front of and behind the UN vehicle. 
 
5.  (SBU) In the village of Assinovskaya, we saw a 
15-foot-tall roadside poster of Ramzan Kadyrov, his late 
father Akhmed, and President Putin, a trinity that many have 
taken to calling, "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" given the 
younger Kadyrov's constant praise for Putin and his recent 
statements crediting Putin with saving the Chechen nation. 
There were other posters of Ramzan Kadyrov and his father 
along the way, nicely set in newly built brick enclosures, 
noting the gratitude and pride of the Chechen people. 
Approaching Grozny, they gave way to billboards for air 
conditioners, window replacements, and water delivery, 
literally signs of progress. 
 
IDPS 
----- 
 
6.  (SBU) At the outskirts of Grozny, the sign welcoming 
 
MOSCOW 00003495  002 OF 004 
 
 
visitors had been repaired and painted.  A Russian postal 
service truck passed in the opposite direction.  Entering the 
city, workmen were finishing renovations on 10 low-rise 
apartment buildings, housing for some of the estimated 
120,000 still displaced within Chechnya.  About 12,000 IDPs 
still live in temporary accommodation centers (TACs), but 
Kadyrov has ordered all 26 closed by the end of the year.  A 
contact working in Kadyrov's administration told us earlier, 
how
ever that insufficient alternative shelter would make this 
order unfeasible.  Chechen officials are making aggressive 
efforts to remove some families they claim are staying in 
government housing illegally after receiving compensation or 
having adequate housing elsewhere.  At the TAC we visited, 
housing about 400 families, conditions were tolerable, but 
cramped.  The TAC commandant asserted that no one was being 
forced to leave if they had no other shelter, and officials 
were reviewing each case individually. 
 
MAIN STREET, CHECHNYA 
--------------------- 
 
7.  (SBU) Grozny's main streets were paved and many of the 
buildings were barely visible through scaffolding as workers 
plastered and painted facades.  Victory Street, the first to 
undergo extensive reconstruction, bustled with pedestrians 
shopping or having lunch at one of several cafes and 
restaurants now open.  Nearby Minutka Square, which had been 
called Grozny's Ground Zero and had been surrounded by piles 
of rubble and armed men from various security forces during 
our initial visit in 2005, has been cleared of rubble, as 
well as armed men, and prepared for reconstruction.  Rising 
above Grozny's cityscape are the four minarets and domes of a 
Chechen-government-financed replica of a grand Turkish 
mosque, which Kadyrov has promised will be the largest in the 
Caucasus and is being built by a Turkish company. 
 
8.  (SBU) Even Kadyrov's critics have acknowledged Grozny's 
rapid transformation, although stressing that public sector 
employees have to contribute up to 30 percent of their 
salaries to the Kadyrov fund and that laborers have been 
press ganged into reconstruction projects for little or no 
pay.  What is markedly different, however, is that throughout 
the city, Grozny's residents are beginning to rebuild their 
homes.   Off Grozny's thoroughfares, on the unpaved, rutted 
streets that lead into many neighborhoods, destroyed or 
deserted homes that stood untouched were outshone by the 
bright red brick and sunlight reflected from the new tin 
roofs of houses being rebuilt.  In one neighborhood, water 
lines, funded by the USG, were being laid to restore running, 
potable water to about 1,800 residents. 
 
THE ONCE AND FUTURE INSURGENCY 
------------------------------ 
 
9.  (C) The optimism suggested by reconstruction efforts is 
tempered by what remains a volatile security situation.  The 
insurgency has been weakened considerably, but there are 
rumors that more young men and amnestied former rebels are 
joining the resistance, with rebels' appearance in Grozny, as 
well as more frequent attacks on federal and local security 
forces around the towns of Shali, Vedeno, and Shatoy. 
Chechen human rights activists, NGO workers, and UN officials 
told us access to areas south and east of Grozny is sporadic 
at best because of fighting there.  Some of our contacts said 
they expected Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov to attempt a 
large-scale raid this summer. 
 
10.  (C) Contacts were also quick to tell us that, despite 
the prospects for further clashes, security has improved and 
Chechnya is more stable than Ingushetiya and Dagestan.  UN 
security officers said that there has been a sharp increase 
in attacks on security forces and law enforcement officers in 
Ingushetiya, with an average of one per day since mid-June. 
During our travels in the North Caucasus, insurgents attacked 
a border guards detachment in Nazran in the early morning on 
June 28, and we were advised to avoid passing through the 
middle of town by UN security.  On June 29, gunmen fired on a 
police vehicle in the village of Karabulak in eastern 
Ingushetiya.  Throughout the republic, including the capital 
Magas, we noticed a heavier military presence than in the 
past, with what appeared to be federal forces having set up 
new positions along the road leading to Magas and armored 
vehicles taking up positions at key intersections in Nazran 
in the early evening.  As in Chechnya, there was speculation 
that a larger attack was being planned.  The hit-and-run 
attacks could be intended to give newly recruited insurgents 
some experience, according to contacts. 
 
11.  (C) Shakman Akbulatov of Memorial's Ingushetiya office 
told us that abductions of Ingush by security forces were 
becoming more common.  Memorial has documented 12 abductions 
 
MOSCOW 00003495  003 OF 004 
 
 
in Ingushetiya since January, almost as many as in Chechnya 
(ref B).  Other contacts, including an expatriate NGO 
director, said that frustration over these abductions and the 
recent forced closure of the Novi settlement for Ingush IDPs 
displaced during the 1992 conflict with North Ossetia were 
exacerbating tensions in the republic.  The NGO director told 
us that previous Ingush public opposition to reunification 
with Chechnya was softening.  Some Ingush were beginning to 
advocate for it in the hopes that Kadyrov could protect them 
from abuses by federal security forces and that he would 
support Ingush claims to have the disputed Prigorodniy 
District that is now part of North Ossetia returned to 
Ingushetiya. 
 
TRANSITION, BUT TO WHAT? 
------------------------ 
 
12.  (C) As Chechnya improves and other republics start to 
fray, donors, UN agencies, and NGOs are discussing a 
transition strategy.  Unemployment across the North Caucasus 
-- not the provision of basic necessities for victims of the 
Chechen conflict -- has become the most pressing issue for 
aid agencies as the number of displaced or other vulnerable 
victims of the conflict decrease.  International assistance 
to the region is moving away from traditional humanitarian 
aid to small-scale economic development programs intended to 
give many aid recipients the means to support themselves and 
to begin full-scale recovery in Chechnya. 
 
13. (C) Moreover, many traditional humanitarian donors, like 
the British and Canadians, have reduced substantially or 
ended humanitarian aid to the North Caucasus, while donors 
such as USAID and the EU's TACIS program have begun funding 
projects in conflict mitigation, health, and income 
generation.  UN contacts tell us that the GOR has been 
unequivocal in calling for an end to direct humanitarian 
assistance.  UN humanitarian agencies, like UNHCR and World 
Food Program, may leave the North Caucasus in 2008 because of 
declining numbers of beneficiaries and needs, reduced donor 
funding, and uncertainty over their access to Chechnya.  The 
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance 
will close in December of this year as a first step in a 
reduced UN humanitarian presence. 
 
HUMANITARIAN NEEDS AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITARIAN AID 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
14. (C) According to UN estimates, there are about 120,000 
displaced persons in Chechnya and slightly more than 15,000 
in Ingushetiya. Although development programs can
help many 
victims of the conflict, our contacts maintain there is still 
need for humanitarian assistance.  Shelter, medical care, and 
access to potable water are lacking in many rural areas and 
the most vulnerable within Chechnya and Ingushetiya -- the 
elderly, single-mothers and their children, or the disabled 
-- cannot take advantage of job training or microfinancing. 
These populations will continue to rely on international aid. 
 
 
15. (C) Privately, some contacts told us they were worried 
that the GOR may try to accelerate departure of international 
humanitarian aid agencies.  Earlier this year, 
rocket-propelled grenades were fired at UN offices in Nazran. 
 UN officials, after getting little information from security 
agencies on possible motives or suspects or concrete 
improvements in security around the offices, have decided to 
end the UN's full-time presence in Ingushetiya and close 
offices in Nazran.  UN officials were told recently that the 
GOR would not allow the UN to open an office in Grozny in a 
surprising reversal of their long-running insistence that the 
UN and other international aid organizations should move 
their operations there. 
 
16.  (C) ICRC Chief of Mission Francois Bellon said recently 
that there had been a wave of increased scrutiny of aid 
activities, with GOR officials suggesting activities should 
be "constructive" and done in cooperation with the GOR. 
Other NGO contacts told us that following a flurry of 
questioning about "political activities" in May, FSB interest 
in their work has waned, at least temporarily.  Earlier, an 
MFA official told UNHCR that as long as international 
agencies worked with the republic-level governments and did 
so in ways that supported GOR contentions that the situation 
was normalizing, they could stay in the North Caucasus. 
However, the GOR has never expressly laid out its priorities 
systematically and does not seem likely to do so, leaving 
donors and aid agencies to meet with GOR officials 
individually to discuss GOR preferences and to coordinate 
among themselves as best they can. 
 
TREATMENT OF NGOS 
 
MOSCOW 00003495  004 OF 004 
 
 
----------------- 
 
17.  (C) Although much improved since 2003-2004, the 
relationship among aid agencies and the GOR and local 
officials continues to be uneasy, sometimes adversarial, but 
loosely cooperative.  Local officials are more accepting of 
assistance, whereas federal officials, including Presidential 
Representative for the Southern Federal District Dmitriy 
Kozak, remain distant.  Although all international NGOs 
working in the region were re-registered, some after nearly 
three months of suspended activities, they occasionally are 
harassed or have their work obstructed.  There does not, 
however, seem to be any widespread effort to force them to 
shut down, despite what some had feared when new legislation 
governing NGOs was adopted.  Most have learned to adapt 
quickly so that disruptions are minimal.  World Vision, for 
example, has been suspended from working in Chechnya because 
a local employee was arrested on weapons charges. It has 
simply repositioned its resources in Ingushetiya, and 
Chechens seeking medical care visit its clinic in 
Sleptsovskaya, not far from the interrepublican border. 
 
18.  (C) Based on anecdotal evidence of treatment of NGOs and 
conversations with UN, Red Cross, and republic level 
officials, the GOR continues to be sensitive to activities by 
the international aid organizations that have political 
overtones or criticize Russia's human rights record. This is 
expected to increase as the 2008 presidential transition 
approaches.  Suspected ties to separatists are almost certain 
to lead to trouble for NGOs, as was the case with World 
Vision.  Local officials, meanwhile, complain that UN 
agencies and NGOs do not listen to them, but proceed with 
activities that they do not especially value such as 
tolerance building, rather than reconstruction or job 
training.  But overall, international agencies and the GOR 
seem to co-exist, if not always cooperate, with aid agencies 
doing their best in Chechnya to fill gaps in the government's 
assistance. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
19.  (C) Chechnya's reconstruction over the past year is 
dramatic, almost startling.  The long-awaited arrival of 
federal funds and Kadyrov's central direction, even with his 
reprehensible methods of compelling contributions from his 
own citizens, have made Grozny more than the Potemkin village 
that government critics claimed it would be in the early days 
of the program.  Normalcy, even optimism, is starting to 
return, judging by better security and reconstruction of 
individual homes.  Grozny's residents remain nervous over the 
prospects of a re-invigorated insurgency, and prospects for 
trouble in other republics are serious.  Aid agencies still 
see unmet needs and opportunities to assist in the region's 
recovery, despite the GOR's mixed messages about an 
international presence in the North Caucasus.   From our 
perspective, U.S. assistance has made a meaningful 
contribution in Chechnya and can continue to do so throughout 
the broader region, as long as we work in concert with other 
donors and avoid falling prey to Russian suspicions. 
BURNS

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