MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin's office on Monday asked parliament to approve an amnesty plan aimed at persuading militants in Chechnya and surrounding regions to disarm and surrender to the authorities.
The Kremlin's draft resolution, which is likely to win swift approval in the loyal State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is part of an effort to end more than a decade of resistance following the deaths of leading Chechen rebels this summer.
It comes near the end of a temporary measure announced in July by Russia's top security official, who suggested militants would not be prosecuted if they surrendered and were not suspected of grave crimes such as murder, rape or terrorism. Authorities say more than 200 militants in Chechnya have taken advantage of the offer, which initially gave them about two weeks to surrender but was extended through Sept. 30
The amnesty proposed by Putin would remain in effect for six months after its approval by parliament and would also apply to Russian servicemen suspected of committing crimes while serving in Chechnya and other republics in Russia's volatile North Caucasus, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing the chairman of the Duma committee on criminal legislation, Pavel Krasheninnikov.
Militants would have to disarm to avoid prosecution, and the amnesty would not apply to servicemen accused of selling or stealing weapons.
To take effect, the resolution needs approval by majority votes in three readings in the 450-seat Duma.
The Kremlin has offered several similar amnesties in the past, but Putin's proposal follows the death of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who was behind successful rebel offensives and many of the terrorist attacks that have plagued the country during 12 years of nearly constant conflict in Chechnya, a mostly Muslim region in southern Russia.
Basayev was killed by an explosion in early July, in what officials said was a well-planned operation but rebel representatives claimed was an accident. The longtime president of the Chechen rebels' self-declared government, Aslan Maskhadov, was killed last year and his successor, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, was killed in June.
Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago but rebels continue to stage regular hit-and-run raids and land-mine explosions against federal forces and local pro-Moscow officials. Militant attacks have also become increasingly common in other republics in the North Caucasus.
On Monday, the Interior Ministry said Russian police killed two suspected militants and captured two others during the latest security sweeps in Chechnya.
The ministry's Chechen branch said that Isa Muskiyev, whom it called a top warlord in charge of rebel groups in several regions of Chechnya, was killed Sunday during a raid in the southern Shali region. Muskiyev's brother was also killed, it said.
Vakhit Usmayev, a senior officer in the regional police force, told Rossiya state television that Muskiyev personally had killed over 100 people, including police officers and local administrators.
"He was a real scoundrel," Usmayev said in televised remarks.
The gazeta.ru online newspaper said, however, that local authorities in Chechnya already had boasted of Muskiyev's killing a year ago. Asked about the discrepancy, the Interior Ministry's Chechen branch insisted he was killed Sunday and said the earlier report probably referred to a brother.
Over the weekend, police and security forces detained several suspected militants in North Ossetia, which borders Chechnya, and confiscated a large amount of weapons, ammunition and potential bomb components, said Roman Gubatov, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry branch in southern Russia. He said authorities believe they disrupted plans for a terrorist attack.