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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministers Say Grozny Beyond Repair

Downtown Grozny, devastated by almost three months of heavy fighting, shelling, bombing and plundering, is beyond redemption, Russian government ministers said Thursday upon returning from an inspection trip to Chechnya.

Railroad Minister Gennady Fadeyev also said Chechnya will need a new government if restoration work is to get anywhere. Meanwhile, the National Revival Government headed by Salambek Khadzhiyev is the main recipient of aid from the Russian government.

"We saw Grozny out of APCs, looking out through peepholes 5 centimeters by 10," Fadeyev said. "The picture was disheartening -- downtown Grozny practically does not exist. My opinion, shared by many other government members, is that it cannot be restored."

"What's the use of restoring buildings that have only one wall standing?" added Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak. "Maybe some historic buildings can be restored, if their foundations are still intact."

Fadeyev returned from Grozny this week after visiting Chechnya with a group of ministers led by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets. The group had been meant to set in motion the restoration of the bombed-out city, but it failed even to assess the damage, because fighting is still going on throughout Grozny.Government members have maintained that the Chechen campaign and the subsequent reconstruction of Grozny will not torpedo the 1995 budget. Only 2.5 trillion rubles ($555 million) has been budgeted to rebuild the city and restore communications in Chechnya.

But it took ministers a trip to the wasteland that is Grozny to realize the extent of the damage and the magnitude of effort needed to revive the city.

Asked to assess the cost of restoring the city, Fadeyev answered, "I asked myself the same question before I went there. Now that I'm back, I can tell you that nobody will be able to answer it for quite some time."Fadeyev said living people might still be found under the rubble, and that there must be hundreds of corpses under collapsed buildings. Bulgak added that the ruins were mined in many places.

"In order to get anything done, a real government is needed there immediately," Fadeyev said. "There is no evidence the existing one is doing any work."

The delegation led by Soskovets met with the Khadzhiyev cabinet in Mozdok to hear the local ministers' reports, which Fadeyev called "window-dressing that had nothing to do with reality." According to Fadeyev, Soskovets harshly criticized the National Revival Government.

Meanwhile, however, Moscow is making a serious effort to help the interim government get a grip on the situation. Bulgak said the first mobile telephone stations that will replace Grozny's four bombed-out exchanges will be handed over to the government, and the first telephone lines will be reserved for its use. A new television transmitter will be installed in a building next to Khadzhiyev's headquarters.

"The only thing we still have to figure out is how to do that under sniper fire and without cranes," Bulgak said.