The second Chechen war, like the first one which lasted from 1994 to 1996, is plunging deeper and deeper into barbarism. Mid-January figures claim 15,000 dead on the Chechen side and 3,000 on the Russian, without counting the hundreds of thousands injured, the children mutilated, the women raped by a permanently drunk soldiery, the more than 300,000 refugees living in filth under the guns of their ‘guardians’, suffering from hunger, thirst and epidemics. And it’s not only the flesh and blood of the Chechens which is being cut or drained. Their homes are being systematically ransacked. The Russian daily Kommersant (quoted in Le Monde 21 January) reported that "carpets, audio and video equipment and other material, altogether worth millions of dollars" were found in the trucks of the elite 22nd Brigade of the ministry of the interior.
A vast mafia-type traffic has been organized in the ‘safety’ zone occupied by the Russian army, commanded by the generals themselves: gasoline, weapons and munitions are all for sale, while corpses are being sold back to their families. And soldiers don’t only become profitable objects when they are dead:
"In correspondence we have received from Russia, a reader informs us of a veritable traffic in hostages in which Russian officers and Chechen rebel leaders are both implicated. This assertion seems to be confirmed by the press itself, in particular the sale and delivery by Russian officers to Chechen gangs...of their own soldiers! These then become a way of putting pressure on their families and held against a ransom which is shared by both sides" (International Review 100).
The capture of Grozny, which according to the Russian high command was going to be a stroll in the park, has been put back again and again. One of the chiefs of the Russian offensive recently announced in all seriousness that the war would be over on 26 February. This is just ideological bombast that impresses nobody. In fact, if the Russians did finish their military operations on that date, we’d be talking about a clear defeat for Moscow, because it is obvious that between now and then they will not have taken possession of a city that is being defended tooth and nail by apparently well-organized Chechen fighters.
Neither would it mean that the Russians had succumbed to the pressure of the western, democraticssure of the western, democratic bourgeoisies who, despite their critical statements, have from the beginning given the green light to the Russian ‘clean-up’ operation. In our press we have constantly pointed out the hypocrisy and complicity of all the big powers towards the massacres in Chechnya. The delegation from the Council of Europe which on 19 January visited an area ‘liberated’ by the Russians, decided, despite witnessing first hand the Russian brutalities, not to suspend Russia from this organization for such a small offence. It is true of course that those who brought about the destruction of Serbia and Kosovo can’t be terribly shocked about what the Russians are doing. And as long as the Russians restrict themselves to the northern Caucasus, as long as they don’t have the means to get directly involved in the melee going on further south, where the USA, the Europeans, the Turks and the Iranians are all struggling for control of the oil of Baku, the great powers will leave them in peace.
The common desire of the other powers not to put Russia in a difficult situation is only temporary and the implacable logic of imperialist interests will give a powerful push to the tendency towards chaos and decomposition in the Caucasus. The Calvary of the population in this region is setpopulation in this region is set to continue.