Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 16

Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov claimed on April 27 that “terrorists who commit serious crimes in Chechnya” come into the republic from neighboring Dagestan, where they rest and “muster their strength” and then “drop in” to Chechnya for “the next terrorist act.” Kadyrov called on law-enforcement organs of the North Caucasus to fight terrorists jointly, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

Kadyrov’s comments exacerbate growing tensions between Chechen and Dagestani law-enforcement organs. Tensions spiked in January when Kadyrov led a convoy of armed security men from Chechnya into Dagestan and freed sister, Zulai, who had been detained along with two members of her brother’s security service (see Chechnya Weekly, January 13).

Another confrontation reportedly took place on April 20 when, as reported by Nezavisimaya gazeta the following day, personnel from the Chechen branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) together with members Kadyrov’s presidential security service carried out an operation in the village of Toturby-Kala in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt. Their targets were several suspected members of “illegal armed formations” who had allegedly hid in the home of Yusup Adzhiev, head of the service department of Mezhregiongaz, an affiliate of Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly. The Chechen side claimed that Adzhiev’s brother, reportedly a deputy to the Dagestani rebel field commander Rappani Khalilov, was among those hiding in the house. The Dagestani side, and Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov, said the Chechen forces were blocked by local inhabitants who were “armed to the teeth.” Abdulmanap Musaev, head of the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s press department, said that Yusup Adzhiev’s bodyguards started shooting at the Chechen forces simply because they saw unknown armed people in ski-masks approaching the house. Likewise, Khasavyurt district police patrol officer Magomed Omarov, who witnessed the incident, told Nezavisimaya gazeta that Adzhiev’s bodyguards took the Chechen security men for “God knows who, all the more so given that it all took place at four in the morning, when it was still quite dark.”

Whichever version of the incident is accurate, Kommersant on April 21 quoted Ruslan Atsaev, head of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s press service, as saying that two Chechen “special-detachment servicemen,” one from the presidential security service and the other from the FSB, were killed in the shootout. Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told Interfax on April 20 that the deputy chief of the Nozhai-Yurt district’s FSB department, Adam Uchmigov, had been killed in the operation. Nezavisimaya gazeta on April 21 quoted Khasavyurt city mayor Saigidpasha Umakhanov as saying that unknown gunmen in masks had recently abducted four men from Toturby-Kala, leaving local residents “exasperated” and convinced “that these were the actions of the Chechen special services.”

On the day of the incident in Toturby-Kala, April 20, Ramzan Kadyrov told RIA Novosti that armed local residents had impeded the Chechen security forces attempts to “neutralize members of the band formations” and, “with the connivance of staff of the district law-enforcement organs,” had helped the three rebels allegedly hiding in Yusup Adzhiev’s house to escape. Kadyrov insisted the Chechen security operations in Khasavyurt district had been conducted with the agreement of Dagestani law-enforcement and said that the incident raised many questions. “It is incomprehensible: why did a group of the most active members of Khalilov’s band end up in the home of a Dagestani official?”, Kadyrov asked. Interfax on April 20 quoted Kadyrov as saying: “It is impossible to establish order in the fight against terrorism in just one constituent part of the Russian Federation. If gunmen and terrorists, having committed heavy crimes in the Chechen Republic, are allowed to have a rest and restore strength in neighboring regions for some time, we will never get rid of this evil.”

Dagestani Interior Ministry spokesman Abdualmanap Musaev told RIA Novosti that Dagestani law-enforcement personnel got involved in the operation in Toturby-Kala only after the Chechen personnel had already launched it. He would not, however, discuss whether the Dagestani side had been informed in advance about the operation and insisted there were “no grounds for discord” between the law-enforcement organs of Dagestan and Chechnya.

On April 24, Toturby-Kala residents held a protest against the actions of the Chechen security forces on April 20. The Caucasus Times reported on April 24 that the Khasavyurt district Interior Ministry department sent forces into the village “to ease the situation” and that Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov later visited Toturby-Kala and “managed to ease the tensions.”

In another apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Magomedtagirov and Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov met in Khasavyurt on April 25 and agreed to continue joint special operations in Dagestan, the Caucasus Times reported on April 26. “From now on, not a single operation in the neighboring territory will be carried out without being agreed beforehand,” Magomedtagirov said.