Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Heists Force New Routing

Russia, losing patience with the rebel region of Chechnya, is planning to build a new railway line that loops around the republic and allows freight traffic to avoid a notorious crime zone.

The Railways Ministry has made the decision to construct the new 81-kilometer track which will run between Dagestan and the Stavropol region because of persistent robberies and huge losses on the route which runs through Chechnya, a ministry spokesman said Friday.

The project is the second step Moscow has taken to impose a transport blockade on Chechnya since it intensified its efforts to remove Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev earlier this month. Two weeks ago all flights between Moscow and the Chechen capital Grozny were canceled.

The government has no hopes for a quick improvement in the political and economic situation in the republic in the near future, according to Viktor Poltava, deputy head of the construction department of the Railways Ministry.

Poltava said that it was not clear when construction would start but added: "with the current rates of construction it could take a minimum of three years."

The decision was backed by the heads of administrations of 10 North Caucasian republics and regions of Russia at a special meeting in Rostov on Thursday, a regional official said.

"Nobody can control the situation in Chechnya," said Valery Oliyenichuk, spokesman for the Stavropol administration. "It is full of numerous armed gangs and uncontrolled military formations. People are constantly being beaten and trains robbed."

Oliyenichuk said that every second train which went through the territory of Chechnya was an object for an armed attack and almost 1/3 of all trains never reached Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

"Our region and the whole of Russia is losing billions of rubles. That's inadmissible in the present economic crisis," he added.

In Chechnya itself thousands attended a rally held by the former speaker of the Russian parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov and his new ally gang leader Ruslan Labazanov outside Grozny on Thursday, Interfax reported. The agency said the leader of the Moscow-backed opposition, Umar Avturkhanov, did not attend.

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, one of the architects of Moscow's Chechen policy, said Friday that President Boris Yeltsin might have to swallow his pride and do business with his old enemy, Khasbulatov, if he came to power. He said all hopes of negotiating with Dudayev were now exhausted.

"If Khasbulatov receives the support of the Chechen people I think that the federal center will be obliged to work with him in resolving the situation," Shakhrai said.