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Chechnya: Separatists, Russian Forces in for the Long Haul and Big Cash

Angelique van Engelen - 3/29/2013

The next turn in the war in Chechnya is highly unpredictable, but the Islamic independence fighters who have insisted on wreaking total chaos appear to have gotten themselves what they have been after - an all out war against the Russians. Some have said that with the death of Aslan Maskhadov in 2005, the war in Chechnya as such is over. Now the show is run by Islamists who run a 'race to extermination' and Moscow-backed security forces run by Ramsan Kadyrov, the disgraced son of the country's former president who was killed earlier on.

Risks of the separatists taking their strife outside Chechnyan borders yet again are high, whilst also the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline that runs for 80 miles through Chechnya is a target for the independence fighters in particular. "Expect a fire across the North Caucasus, and possibly some places north and south. The madmen really are running the asylum now," according to Sobaka Magazine, an online information platform on war torn areas that has live contacts on the ground.

From the perspective of all parties involved, the war is likely to be going on for a long time if no one ends the cycle of violence that thugs and warlords have engaged themselves in. So long as their actions are driven by financial gain more than anything else, they are unlikely to find an incentive to end their violence.

A prominent extremist that fought with Maskhadov is Shamil Basayev. But this man, branded an international terrorist by the US, has a record of implementing large-scale terror attacks outside Chechnya and he is seen as a prime risk in this country. He was involved in the Dubrovka siege, the Metro bombings, and a string of other attacks. His latest exploit is the training of female suicide bombers - the "Black Widows" - who were feared to have been behind a plane crash recently.

The US has linked Basayev with Al Qaeda and since the killing of Makhadov, Basayev and consorts have said they were proud to be linked with the leader of the Al Qaeda group Bin Laden. Saying they saw a shiney vision on his face, they pretty much made themselves out to be more dangerous than some observers believe they are. Basayev is fighting among others only for the unity of the Northern countries in the Caucasus.

The only glimmer of hope for some form of ceasefire or at least a truce to come into being in Chechnya itself is the speculation that the Maskhadov camp -organised in the Kavkaz Center- is making plans to replace the dead leader with a "defense committee" that might possibly be able to negotiate with Moscow.

Dokka Umarov was been mentioned as a possible new leader, but it remains to be seen if this man can pull off anything of the kind Aslan Maskharov -the Russia trained fighter who was to some extent still willing to negotiate with Moscow- was deemed capable of.

The newly elected pro-Moscow Chechen President, Alu Alkhanov, has his hands tied because Russian troops in his country prohibit the anti Russian sentiment which is alive among the ordinary population, while separatists are sending the country further along on the course of doom and chaos.

The Russian soldiers on the ground are no less reckless than the separatists. One Russian soldier was overheard at a trainstation talking on the phone to his wife that he was ready to come home and that he'd only return to the place when there'd 'be nothing but skirts'. The official Russian strategy to attack and isolate the rebels is unlikely going to be abandoned. Even though everyone by now agrees that the support for and credibility of radical Islamic groups is only intensified. They are combating against the young Kadyrov, who will not want to relinquish his power or lucrative oil revenues.

Human rights abuses have been sparking attention from international parties and a few cases have managed to be tried in the Hague's international court, yet the concerted effort from the international community appears to be limited to this action only.

The Human Rights Watch expressed outrage at the European Union's decision to 'break with the past and not seek censure of Russia over Chechnya at the United Nation's top human-rights body'. Describing this action as as 'unconscionable' in its press release, the New York-based group repeated on Monday local reports that between 3,000-5,000 of people have disappeared in the past six years. Even the Russians themselves no longer deny their war actions and have put this number to 2,000.

Angelique van Engelen is a freelance journalist who is involved in www.reporTwitters.com, a journalistic project that combines reporting with Twitter. She crowdsourced opinions on this issue on this site.

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