Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 29

Some residents of the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya have again fled to neighboring Dagestan. In June, more than a thousand villagers, who are ethnic Avars, left with their belongings following a violent security operation allegedly carried out by members of the Vostok battalion, the pro-Moscow Chechen armed unit led by Sulim Yamadaev that operates under the federal Defense Ministry’s aegis. Interfax reported on July 22 that more than 100 people had again left the village and set up a tent camp on Chechnya’s administrative border with Dagestan. The news agency quoted a Dagestan Interior Ministry spokesman as saying that there were 115 people in the camp, including 80 women, and that some had brought their personal belongings with them. The spokesman said they were demanding the release of 11 villagers who were abducted on June 4, as well as compensation payments. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov alleged that some Borozdinovskaya residents were trying to blackmail the Chechen government, which, he claimed, had “met all their obligations related to the return of Borozdinovskaya residents from the tent camp to their homes.”

A police source in Dagestan’s Kizlyar district reported that up to 60 Borozdinovskaya residents entered the Kizlyar district on July 21 and staged a protest there. According to the source, the residents returned to Chechnya after representatives of the administrations of Dagestan’s Kizlyar district and Chechnya’s Shelkovskoi district met with them, but that residents remained “in the immediate vicinity of the administrative border with Dagestan.”

Ren TV correspondent Sergei Tugushev interviewed Borozdinovskaya residents on July 22 who were preparing to leave the village again. One of them, Fatima Ramazanova, said that after she returned home from the tent camp that the Borozdinovskaya refugees set up in June near Kizlyar, she received neither the promised compensation for her house, which was destroyed in the June 4 security sweep, nor information on the whereabouts of her two brothers, who were abducted during the operation. She said she was leaving Borozdinovskaya again out of fear. “I am afraid that my husband will be taken away,” she said. “I am afraid that my sons when they grow up will be taken away too. I have two sons.” Another resident, Omar Kolgatov, said he has been hunted by unidentified people wearing masks and armed with assault rifles since identifying photographs of those who participated in the June sweep. “I cannot spend a night at home,” he told Ren TV. “I have to stay at a different place every night or go to Dagestan for the night. When I stay here I have to go to my neighbors.”

Novaya gazeta reported on July 25 that it is difficult to know exactly how many Borozdinovskaya residents have again fled the village. The bi-weekly newspaper cited the Chechen government’s press service as saying 30 villagers had crossed over into Dagestan; Isa Vaiskhanov, the head of Chechnya’s Shelkovskoi district, as saying that 60 villagers crossed over on July 21; and Vyacheslav Burov, the head of Dagestan’s Kizlyar district, as saying that the number of villagers who left Borozdinovskaya increased from 80 on July 21 to far more than 100 the following day. “The Dagestani authorities are not taking any measures with respect to the growing camp near Kizlyar,” Burov told Novaya gazeta. Both Burov and sources in the Kizlyar district police department told the newspaper that it would be more difficult to convince these refugees to return home than it was those who left in June. According to Novaya gazeta, the more than one thousand Borozdinovskaya residents who fled in June returned to the village after receiving a personal guarantee of security from First Deputy Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. However, the Kadyrov security men who were sent to Borozdinovskaya to guard the village left after the recent terrorist attack in the Chechen village of Znamenskoe, triggering the new exodus of Borozdinovskaya residents. Shelkovskoi district administration chief Khusein Nutaev said on July 26 that the Chechen authorities will not insist that the Borozdinovskaya residents who again fled to Dagestan return to Chechnya and are not able to compensate them for losses caused by the June 4 security sweep. “It is their legal right – the choice of residence, especially since the Chechen leadership is not in a position to satisfy their main demand and pay them compensation amounting to 200,000 rubles [around $6,970],” RIA Novosti quoted Nutaev as saying.

Meanwhile, on July 26 quoted Vladimir Kalita, deputy military prosecutor for the Unified Group of Federal Forces in the North Caucasus, as saying that investigators from his office were on the verge of establishing exactly who was involved in the security operation in Borozdinovskaya on June 4 and would be able to name them in the near future. Vostok battalion commander Sulim Yamadaev has denied that members of his unit were involved in the Borozdinovskaya operation. However, Borozdinovskaya residents say they recognized members of the Vostok battalion among the armed men who raided the village, including the battalion’s reconnaissance chief, Khamzat Gairbekov (see Chechnya Weekly, June 30). A police inspector from Borozdinovskaya became the first suspect to face criminal charges in connection with the June 4 sweep, Interfax reported on July 24. The news agency quoted a Chechen law-enforcement source as saying that Khasan Vizhaev has been accused of abuse of office “in the form of criminal negligence” for allegedly failing to visit the scene of the sweep quickly enough and reporting the incident immediately to higher officials.

However, the deputy chief editorial of Nezavisimaya gazeta, Anton Trofimov, wrote an analysis piece in the newspaper’s July 25 edition in which he expressed doubts over whether Vizhaev was genuinely guilty and over whether the Chechen authorities really want to bring those responsible for the June 4 sweep in Borozdinovskaya to justice. “The feeling arises that they are trying with all of their might to smooth over the ripening conflict between federal units and the Chechen spetsnaz,” Trofimov wrote. “It is not difficult to understand the motives for these actions. Formed with Moscow’s direct authorization, the Vostok and Zapad battalions for the most part consist of former militants who have come over to the federal side. Suffice it to say that the unit of the Yamadaev brothers, which has served as the basis of Vostok, controlled Gudermes before the start of the second Chechen campaign, and Zapad commander Ramzan Kadyrov is the son of the former religious leader of the separatists, Akhmad Kadyrov. And it is probably not a baseless fear that if relations with the Chechen spetsnaz are spoiled, there is a high probability that they will return to the camp of the ‘uncompromising’. And even if Vostok or Zapad simply goes to the mountains to fight as freelancers, dealing with them will be very difficult.”