Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 31

In a series of three articles about the June zachistka in the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya, Moskovsky komsomlets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov confirmed earlier reports that the early June operation – in which homes were burned, at least one resident killed and eleven abducted – was carried out by the Vostok battalion, commanded by Sulim Yamadaev, under the auspices of the GRU. Also echoing earlier reports, Rechkalov wrote that the sweep in Borozdinovskaya was carried out in revenge for the murder of a forester who was the father of a Vostok unit member. Rechkalov reported further that those responsible for this murder, as well as the eleven Borozdinovskaya residents who were abducted and remain missing, either belonged to rebel units or were relatives of militants. Thus what happened in Borozdinovskaya, Rechkalov concluded in his July 5 article, was not the “plundering” of a village, but a “targeted” mopping up operation. “True, they operated according to the laws of war-time, which in no way fit it with the civilized criminal code,” he added. More than a thousand residents of Borozdinovskaya, who are ethnic Avars, subsequently fled the village into neighboring Dagestan, but most eventually returned.

One may or may not accept Rechkalov’s characterization of the Borozdinovskaya raid, but what is perhaps most significant about these three articles on the incident is their description of the role that revenge is playing in the Chechen conflict. In his July 5 article, Rechkalov quoted his guide and bodyguard, Khusein, who described how he is seeking to avenge the death of his younger brother, a policeman, who was murdered by unknown gunmen a half-year ago. “Before, if someone murdered your brother, you had to find the person who killed him and also kill [that person],” Khusein said. “Now, everything is different. There are more murders, more weapons…It is hard to figure out from which barrel flew the bullet that killed your brother. And the blood feud has changed. Imagine that bandits have killed a policeman. His brother gets a job in the police or joins the ‘kadyrovtsy’. Not because he wants to serve there, but to get revenge. But he doesn’t know specifically who killed his brother. And so he simply kills any bandit, the first one he comes across. Or two. This cannot be considered a blood feud in the way our forefathers understood it, but the person feels better inside. But now the brothers of these bandits that he killed must also get revenge. They, perhaps, had not intended to take up arms, but now they join a gang to get revenge. And they also don’t know who specifically killed their brothers; they only know that a policeman or a kadyrovite did it. And they kill the first policemen they run into. One or two. And this is improper revenge, but they feel a bit better. And the relatives of these murdered policemen must get revenge. Etcetera. A geometric progression.”

On August 2, a source in the military prosecutor’s office of the Combined Federal Forces in the North Caucasus denied earlier reports that the Vostok battalion’s reconnaissance chief, Khamzat Gairbekov, had been detained as part of the investigation into the Borozdinovskaya raid. However, the source told Interfax that charges had been filed against the commander of one of the Vosotok battallion’s units in connection with the case.