Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 27

The new head of the Chechen Republic’s OMON special police hinted in an interview published by the website Utro.ru on July 21 that he does not entirely agree with the Kadyrov administration’s policy of recruiting former rebel guerrillas into the pro-Moscow security agencies–or at least not into his own elite unit. Ruslan Alkhanov suggested that, since these gunmen are less than fully trustworthy, they might be assigned to special units comparable to the Soviet army’s “punishment battalions” of World War II, which notoriously were given the most dangerous and even suicidal missions.

The Utro interviewer, Oleg Petrovsky, questioned Alkhanov as follows: “A tradition developed in the Chechen OMON: Former guerrillas were barred from joining the unit. Yet the position of the republic’s leadership and security agencies is well-known: That the current amnesty does not exclude guerrillas who have laid down their arms from being accepted into the police. Do you consider it possible to trust these people?”

Alkhanov answered: “Some might have formed the opinion that amnesty is very simple: The rebel has given up his weapon, has received a certificate, and now we must seek the real human being, a person who has been given a chance to redeem himself from his crimes, to come to his senses–that this is the humanitarian thing to do. Yes, this person was once in a rebel band, but he has decided to break with the past. And he must prove his intentions by his deeds. We must not forget that after he has joined us he has no way back, because he is now bearing arms against the extremists. During the Great Patriotic War we had punishment battalions, where people paid with their own blood for their crimes. Perhaps this is an improper comparison, but we have a concrete example–the actions of the regiment commanded by Sulim Yamadaev, which can take credit for annihilating quite a few rebels and warlords and for finding hundreds of secret arsenals.”