On March 6, the newspaper Izvestia reported that the procuracy of the North Caucasus Military District had completed an examination of several thousand complaints concerning the nonpayment of so-called “battle wages” to Russian contract soldiers who had seen action in Chechnya. Last September, retired army General Viktor Kazantsev, the plenipotentiary presidential representative in the Southern District, had maintained that “battle wages” were not being paid only in isolated instances. The military procuracy discovered, however, that the nonpayment of such wages has in fact “a general character.” Soldiers who were not paid wrote out a large number of complaints against their military commanders. Colonel Aleksandr Kurakov of the military procuracy of the North Caucasus Military District told Izvestia: “We witnessed a horrible scene: Hundreds of complaints lay without any movement. The record belonged to one commander in whose pigeonhole they found 961 complaints!” (One commander, the head of the 42nd division, had refrained from paying out wages to his men because he did not want them to spend the money on drink.) In a number of units, contract soldiers received their pay only after agreeing to kick back 10-15 percent of their wages to their officers.
A correspondent for the state-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Aleksandr Stepanov, was savagely beaten up at Khankala military base by two intoxicated Russian servicemen on March 2. He suffered a broken jaw and numerous bruises all over his body. Stepanov had refused the soldiers’ request that they make use of his mobile phone to call their relatives. The pro-Moscow Chechen procuracy is looking into the incident (Gazeta.ru, March 6; Segodnya, Kommersant, March 5).