Early in the morning of April 20, Yusup Adjiev’s bodyguards saw masked gunmen climbing down from the fence surrounding his house in Toturby-Kala, a village in Dagestan. Adjiev is the head of Dagregiongaz, a state-owned company that controls gas supplies in the Khasavyurt district of Dagestan. The guards immediately opened fire and killed one of the gunmen. The attackers retreated, carrying the dead body of their comrade. They were attacked again near another village, Solnechnoe. According to different media sources, the residents of the village stopped the attackers’ getaway vehicles, killed another masked gunman, and overturned two of the cars.
The casualties were later revealed to be a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer from the Nozhay-Urt district of Chechnya and a member of the Chechen Security Service generally known as the Kadyrovtsy or “members of Kadyrov’s Guard.” Ramzan Kadyrov is the leader of the pro-Russia Chechen forces.
According to the Kavkazcenter rebel website, following these shoot outs, Kadyrov came to personally investigate—along with 300 of his gunmen and five armored personnel carriers (Kavkazcenter.com, April 22). Adilgirei Magomedtagirov, Dagestan’s minister of interior affairs, also came. Adjiev and his people refused to surrender to Kadyrov and the FSB officers, who returned to Chechnya empty-handed. Later Kadyrov said that his people were looking for Adjiev’s brother, who was believed to be a deputy of Rabbani Khalilov, an Islamist rebel leader in Dagestan. Kadyrov blamed Dagestani law-enforcement agencies for the operation’s failure (RIA-Novosti, April 20).
Last year Kadyrov announced that he would fight terrorism anywhere in Russia. When Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist from Novaya gazeta, asked him why his supporters were being organized into a special police regiment, Kadyrov answered that the task of his unit would be “to be ready to be sent to Stavropol or Leningrad [St. Petersburg] any time.” Kadyrov also added that he had instructions “to work” over the whole North Caucasus” (Novaya gazeta, June 21, 2004).
However, when terrorists attacked the Ossetian town of Beslan in September, Russian Special Forces, not Kadyrov’s group, took part in the rescue operation. Instead, the Kadyrovtsy became famous for their night raids on Chechnya. Masked gunmen from Kadyrov’s regiment loot private homes at will and the owners often vanish afterwards. Sometimes the Kadyrovtsy operate by themselves, other times with federal forces. In the past, the Kadyrovtsy attacks were confined to Chechnya and Ingushetia, but last year they began to appear more often in Dagestan, which is adjacent to Chechnya.
In late 2004, at least eight residents of different villages in the Khasavyurt district disappeared during night raids (Kavkazsky Uzel, December 23, 2004). Twice, on December 16 and December 23, outraged villagers blocked the Kavkaz highway near the town of Khasavyurt. They demanded that the authorities tell them the fate of their kidnapped relatives (NTV, December 23, 2004).
As the raids continued, Dagestani policemen began to feel hostile towards their Chechen colleagues. On January 10, Dagestan policemen detained Zulai Kadyrova, Ramzan’s sister, together with two Kadyrovtsy at the Chechen-Dagestan border. A battalion of Kadyrovtsy, led by Ramzan himself, stormed the police station in Khasavyurt and released Zulai and her bodyguards. This incident aggravated relations between the Chechen and Dagestan authorities. Dagestan launched criminal proceedings against Kadyrov, who simply ignored the charges while his guard continued their activities in Dagestan.
The incidents in Toturby-Kala and Solnechnoe demonstrate that the well-armed and fed-up population is ready to declare a war against the Kadyrovtsy. Sultan Shavkhalov, an office manager with the Khasavyurt authorities, told Nezavisimaya gazeta that, just before the confrontation, four young boys had been kidnapped, allegedly by Kadyrovtsy. He added, “The Chechen side [Kadyrov] said that there was no need to get approvals from the Dagestani law-enforcement agencies for such kind of operations.” According to Shavkhalov, the people are very angry in Dagestan and the situation has reached the boiling point (Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 21). After the villagers struck back, people in Khasavyurt protested the abuses committed by the Kadyrovtsy.
Magomedtagirov has ordered the border between Chechnya and Dagestan closed. “The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Dagestan is just sick and tired of the arbitrary behavior of the neighbors in the territory controlled by other security agencies and services,” according to Arsen Merzoev, a Dagestani political scientist. However, it was Magomedtagirov who had asked Adjiev to surrender to the Kadyrovtsy on April 21, implying that he backs the Kadyrovtsy more than the Dagestani side.
The fact that an FSB officer was killed during the shootout in Toturby-Kala shows that the Russian FSB, an agency beyond Magomedtagirov’s control, is connected to the Kadyrovtsy operations in Dagestan. Kadyrov himself has never concealed the fact that his Guard reports to the Operational Control Department of the FSB in Chechnya (kavkaz.strana.ru, March 28). Thus the FSB controls the Kadyrovtsy and implicitly condones their raids in Dagestan.
On April 25, Chechnya’s minister of internal affairs, Ruslan Alkhanov, met with Magomedtagirov in Khasavyurt to discuss the current situation. They agreed that all operations by Chechen security officials in Dagestan would be coordinated with Dagestani police (Caucasus Times, April 25). However, it is hard to say if this meeting will change the situation because neither the Chechen nor the Dagestani ministers are the real decision-makers in the region.
On April 29, Kadyrov told Komsomolskaya pravda that, according to his sources, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basaev was in Dagestan. Dagestani security officials immediately denied this allegation (regnum.ru, April 29). The disagreements between law-enforcement agencies in the two neighboring republics apparently have not ended.