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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Source of Chechen Arms Sparks Rift

Top military officials are blaming each other for the huge quantities of weapons left at the disposal of the forces of the rebellious Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.

In an interview with the weekly Obshchaya Gazeta, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, the former Soviet defense minister, accused the present Russian military leadership of handing over weapons to Dudayev in 1992.

"I will not name names, but I think if one investigates who gave out weapons in Chechnya and who has been getting into a mess there now, the addresses and the names will coincide," Shaposhnikov said.

Yelena Agapova, an aide to Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, dismissed Shaposhnikov's remarks, which she said provided "a very one-sided assessment."

Russian Television reported that Grachev, in turn, accused Shaposhnikov of having committed the same misdeeds.

But Alexander Mikhailov, a chief spokesman for the Federal Counterintelligence Service, said his service had no evidence that any state official had given weapons to Dudayev "with malicious intent."

"There is nothing to investigate here, because everything is clear," Mikhailov said. "It was a political action whose fruits we are reaping now."

Shaposhnikov denied weapons had been handed over by the army to any other group in his term as defense minister, which ran from 1991 to early 1992.

But he said that several times he had sent Grachev, who at the time was first deputy minister, to Chechnya to negotiate with Dudayev about withdrawing Russian troops. "Dudayev proposed a 50-50 split," he said. "I refused."

Izvestia on Thursday published a full list of weapons belonging to Russian units in the Chechen republic in January 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the list, there were 134 armored vehicles, including 42 tanks; 139 artillery pieces; 101 anti-tank guns; 27 anti-aircraft guns; 426 planes, including five military aircraft; two helicopters; 57,596 firearms; and 27 railway cars of ammunition.

The newspaper also quoted a senior officer, General Ochirov, who said he was sent to Chechnya by Grachev soon after Grachev's appointment as defense minister in May 1992. The general was quoted as saying Dudayev had agreed to give back half the weapons, but wanted the other half for his new armed forces.

The newspaper reported that Grachev approved a resolution on June 11, 1992, agreeing to Ochirov's report.

The daily newspaper Segodnya, however, said Thursday that Dudayev had kept all of the Russian weapons. In addition, it said, Dudayev's forces built up supplies of weapons illegally over the next two years -- an apparent reference to the thriving weapons market in Grozny, where traders say arms come in from all over the former Soviet Union.

Vladimir Vorozhtsov, a chief spokesman for the Interior Ministry, described how one of his ministry units left Grozny without their weapons at the end of 1991. He said the unit's base was surrounded by Chechen militants with several dozen petrol trucks.

"They threatened to blow up the military camp if the servicemen did not leave the city," Vorozhtsov said. "After consulting the ministry in Moscow, the battalion commander decided to lay down the arms."