Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Turning Point in the North Caucasus? Russian Siloviki Again Taking Combat Losses

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 14 – For most of the last decade, Russian siloviki have engaged in counter-terrorism actions that have almost always ended in the same way: the siloviki report that they have killed one or more member of what they call the illegal armed underground rather than taking prisoner but that the force structures themselves have suffered no casualties.

            But in recent months, the situation has changed in Chechnya and Ingushetia: the siloviki are still killing the militants but the militants are killing the siloviki, either because they are better trained, better led, better armed or more committed to resisting Russian power. Whether this is a blip or a trend is still difficult to say.

            In a comment to, Dmitry Piskunov, the head of the North Caucasus branch of the Russian Committee against Torture, argues that this development is not trivial because it speaks to the attitudes of the underground and will likely affect the readiness of siloviki to go after them in the manner they have in recent times (

            It may make them even more brutal but it may also mean that at least some siloviki will be increasingly reluctant to put their lives on the line without better justifications than their commanders and other officials have provided in the past. And of course, both the one and the other are real possibilities.

            Piskunov adds that recent events in Chechnya and Ingushetia are something “exceptional” because until recently, “in the overwhelming majority of such special operations, the offers of law enforcement organs did not die. But here two of them have lost their lives. That was real resistance.”

            “If before this, human rights activists were able to express doubts relative to the correctness of this or that special operation” given that no one could show a live militant after they were over, “here there were victims among the siloviki” and that is evidence of the conflict, albeit from a different perspective. 

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