It appears that by blowing up the dilapidated buildings near their Khankala base the military are attempting to avenge the loss of three helicopters gunned down by missiles fired by the rebels from the apartment blocks on the outskirts of Grozny. Some military officials said the Chechens who were left homeless as a result of the attack were themselves to blame because they had failed to report that militants were hiding in their houses, preparing attacks.
The deputy commander of the federal forces Colonel Boris Podoprigora on Tuesday refuted media reports regarding the demolition of housing. Podoprigora said that the military did not destroy any buildings during special operations in Grozny. All media reports about this are untrue, the colonel was quoted by Interfax.
The military are denying the obvious. On Tuesday military officials did not even conceal the fact that they had begun blowing up the dilapidated 5-storey buildings, located in the vicinity of the Khankala military base. The chairman of the pro-Moscow Chechen government Stanislav Ilyasov upon arriving at the site said that three houses were destroyed.
Radio Liberty reported that the military demolished six buildings. According to Ilyasov, two of the three demolished houses were deemed uninhabitable, but some families were living there in violation of safety rules. ''We will find a house in the city, renovate it and people will move there,'' Ilyasov said.
However, according to Radio Liberty, about 100 families that were turned out of their apartments have been left homeless.
The residential area in question is situated in the Oktyabrsky district of Grozny, from where, the military believe, rebels fired a missile at the Mi-8 helicopter on Sunday, killing everyone on board, including 2 high-placed army officials.
''The republican leadership, having learnt of the plans to pull down the houses, tried to prevent the move, but to no effect,'' the republican Security Council secretary Roudnik Dudayev told the press.
On Monday NTV television reported that the residents of those houses had been given barely any time to remove their personal belongings.
Federal TV channels also showed elderly people grieving over a woman who lived in the district in a private house who died of shock when a star shell hit the ground near her. Following the latest Mi-8 helicopter crash the military patrolled the vicinity of Khankala and shelled the area.
''If Putin says that we are the citizens of Russia, then let them treat us like Russian citizens,'' an aged Chechen woman said indignantly, looking at the camera.
To that the spokesman of the military headquarters Ilya Shabalkin said the position of the residents of the destroyed houses remained ambiguous, since those people had been watching the bandits preparing terror attacks and failed to inform law enforcers of their plans.
Shabalkin assumes that the residents should have called the police. ''In line with legislation such conduct is considered to be abetting illegal armed formations, and complicity in a criminal plot.''
According to Shabalkin, on Tuesday afternoon the military met with the civil government of Chechnya and explained why they had pulled down the semi-inhabited houses.
''The action was carried out with the goal of preventing further use of those buildings by the rebels for laying ambushes and weapon emplacements close to the Khankala military base,'' Shabalkin explained.
''We have credible reports that the terrorists have repeatedly reconnoitered the area from those 5-storey buildings, erected observation posts and caches there,'' he said.
The Mi-8 gunned down on Sunday is the third aircraft hit by a rebel missile this year. As investigators have already established, missiles launched from an Igla portable anti-aircraft complex shot down all three helicopters.
The first and most severe case was that of a giant crowded Mi-26 that was downed on August 19, killing at least 121 people.
So far, all efforts to apprehend the rebels who attacked the Russian helicopters have failed (although once, the military said they discovered a video tape showing Aslan Maskhadov commenting on video footage of a burning helicopter).
This week the military reported the elimination of a group of rebels who were wielding a portable antiaircraft complex.
''Five bandits have been eliminated during the operations. Besides, several people have been detained on suspicion of helping participants of illegal armed units,'' Shabalkin said.
While the military were reporting on the success of large-scale security sweeps conducted throughout Chechnya, with the troops sealing off villages, searching houses, and checking the identities of all male residents, Vladimir Putin met with the chief of the Chechen administration Akhmad Kadyrov and moved to assure the republican leadership that the anti-terrorist operation would target solely the rebels, not civilians.
''Mass operations are harmful and unacceptable,'' Vladimir Putin told the journalists, escorting him on his trip through Russian South.
It is noteworthy that Putin said something similar in the first hours following the liberation of hostages from the ‘Nord-Ost’ theatre. But last Sunday, shortly before the Mi-8 was hit by a missile near Grozny, the Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that he was suspending troop withdrawals from Chechnya, and said that the federal forces were launching ''large-scale, tough, but targeted special operations throughout Chechnya''.
In response to the president’s ‘southern’ statement, Ivanov, who is currently on a tour of military facilities in the Far East, said that the military would not cut its presence in Chechnya until all rebel leaders were eliminated or brought to trial.
06 НОЯБРЯ 18:10