The first attempt to call up Chechens into the ranks of the [Russian] Armed Forces,” journalist Dmitry Bal’burov reported in the no. 49 (4-10 December) issue of Moskovskie Novosti, “has taken place. And it has failed.” In the middle of November, fifty-five young Chechen men arrived at the Moscow-based 27th Motor-Rifle Brigade of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Eighteen of them, however, have already returned to Chechnya, and the remainder of them are likely to do so shortly. “The summons of the young Chechens into the Armed Forces of Russia,” Bal’burov noted, “which was intended to be a testimony to the establishment of peaceful life in Chechnya, has quietly collapsed. The ‘draftees’ refused to take the military oath or to put on a uniform, they have had conflicts with their officers, they have gone on hunger strike, and one by one they are returning home.” The young draftees contend that they were lured into the army under false pretexts. They were told that they were to receive sports training, and nothing was said to them about having to take an oath or to put on a uniform.
The young Chechen draftees “say that the Russian officers who deal with them regularly threaten them with prison sentences if they do not take the oath.” According to a representative of the Chechen diaspora, Salambek Maigov, groups of Chechen youths are also present in other Russian garrisons-for example, in Nizhny Novgorod–but he predicts that “all of them will soon return home.” The young Chechen draftees invariably ask the same question: “How can one serve in an army which has brought such grief to each Chechen family?” (Novye Izvestia, 29 November) A spokesman for the press center of the Russian Ministry of Defense, on the other hand, recently affirmed: “There are no problems with the Chechens. They will all take the oath by the established deadline” (Kommersant, December 1).